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Omaha rapid response aiding in Iowa derecho recovery

Omaha Rapid Response has come to the aid of Iowans who are still cleaning up the damage left behind by a strong storm.
Published: Aug. 17, 2020 at 12:31 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 17, 2020 at 5:23 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Cars crushed, trees left splintered, and thousands still without power.

That’s the harsh reality for people living in Central and Western Iowa after a derecho swept through one week ago.

Ken Gruber, the president of Omaha Rapid Response, says “It sounds like they’ve got a few months of work up here.”

He and his team saw there was a need for help right away.

“You’re just seeing it whether it’s through tv or pictures or whatever, a lot of times you’re not getting the whole story,” Gruber tells 6 News.

His initial crew is made up of about 10 people but Gruber is expecting volunteers from across the Heartland to meet up with them in the coming days.

Their initial mission will last a week.

“We’re going to be doing mostly chainsaw work and cutting up a lot of trees and hauling them off,” he explained.

On top of moving away the heavy debris, survivors are in desperate need of essential supplies.

That’s where Brandi Burkett steps in.

“Tarps, coolers, because a lot of people have been without power for a week,” Burkett said reading off from her list. “Some people still don’t have power today.”

She’s been coordinating with a group on social media called the ‘Iowa derecho storm resource page.'

“It has about 49,000, over 49,000 members. It’ll probably be over 50,000 members by the end of today,” Burkett said.

Today and tomorrow, Burkett is collecting things like batteries, non-perishable food, and bottled water to bring to storm victims.

“I will be collecting today, Monday, from 6 to 9 p.m. and then tomorrow morning, Tuesday, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m,” she said.

The collection is happening in the parking lot of her apartment complex, Wycliffe by Broadmoor at 150th & W. Dodge Rd.

She’ll be heading to Cedar Rapids Wednesday.

Gruber knows it’s not just picking up the broken pieces of people’s lives or donating essential items. It’s allowing them to tell their stories and letting them know, they’re not alone.

“We’re building relationships in the midst of a disaster,” Gruber said. “We’re bringing hope in the midst of disaster.”

Even when the power is out and destruction spans for miles, hope and resiliency will still shine.

Gruber says recovery from a storm like this will take months and he doesn’t want people to forget about the storm victims after just a few weeks.

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