Dec. 15 windstorm now officially a derecho

Cemetery damage, semi rollover north of Traer recorded

A semi that sustained heavy damage – and the driver injured – as it was blown off the road north of Traer on Hwy 63 during the Dec. 15 windstorm is pictured on Friday, Dec. 17 after being towed out of the ditch. Photo by Ruby F. Bodeker

The first derecho to ever occur in the month of December anywhere in the United States descended upon Iowa including Tama County last week on Wednesday, Dec. 15 – that’s the official word according to the National Weather Service (NWS) office in Des Moines.

According to NWS, a derecho is a widespread, long-lived wind storm associated with a band of rapidly moving showers or thunderstorms. The wind damage swath from such a storm must extend more than 240 miles and include wind gusts of at least 58 mph.

The line of thunderstorms that moved across Iowa from west to east beginning in the late afternoon on Dec. 15 – reaching Tama County after 7:00 p.m. – has officially been classified as a serial derecho as opposed to the Aug. 10, 2020 progressive derecho that hit the area.

A serial derecho is a much longer line of storms that travels a much shorter distance than a progressive derecho.

Although there were zero official reports of tornadoes, severe wind, or severe hail made from Tama County to NWS as a result of the Dec. 15 serial derecho – no wind gusts were recorded above 70 mph according to Tama County Emergency Management Coordinator Ryan Goodenbour – there was some damage observed around Clutier, Vining, and Traer.

Photo by Ruby F. Bodeker

Following the passage of the thunderstorm line, many in Tama County lost power for several hours or more.

The Holy Trinity cemetery located south of Clutier sustained significant damage to one of its iconic entrance signs.

The sign located over the east driveway with the words ‘Holy Trinity’ displayed across the top in black lettering on a white picket fence was broken in half.

Holy Trinity’s signs were one of the only parts of the cemetery to withstand the Aug. 10, 2020 derecho, according to the cemetery’s co-director Marv Bohnstengel.

“That part of the cemetery survived last year’s derecho … the fence got damaged last year, we had building damage, tombstone damage, but not the sign. That was the one thing [to survive].”

Photo courtesy Chris Nessa/Tony's Tire, Truck & Towing

Bohnstengel said the sign will be taken down from its perch high atop the hill so as not to be a danger to the public. Half of the sign was dangling precariously over the east driveway following the Dec. 15 derecho.

A decision on what to do about the sign and its undamaged twin Czech sign (Nejsv. Trojice) which hangs over the west driveway will be made soon, Bohnstengel said.

North of Traer on US 63 at the Dinsdale turn a tractor trailer driven by Kenneth Michael Schroeder of Ankeny was blown off the road by severe wind gusts.

Schroeder’s semi landed overturned east of the roadway at the bottom of a steep ditch up against a pine tree. The accident took place close to midnight on Dec. 15.

The extent of the damage was severe, according to the Tama County Sheriff’s Office accident report, with the semi totaled and Schroeder taken by Traer Ambulance to MercyOne Hospital after sustaining a head injury.

Wind damage to Holy Trinity Cemetery’s east entrance sign as a result of the Dec. 15 derecho is pictured on Thursday, Dec. 16. The cemetery is located just south of Clutier on Hwy E43. Photo by Soren M. Petereson

Closer to Traer, the redemption center Can Country located near the Traer Airport off IA Hwy 8 also sustained damage to its facility as a result of the Dec. 15 winds.

The storm Wednesday brought down Can Country’s south wall and tore the tin off its building’s east wall.

With the passing of the Dec. 15 storm, Tama County has now experienced two significant wind events in the past 16 months.

A disaster proclamation was issued by Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds on Dec. 16 for 50 counties including Marshall County.

Marshalltown Airport recorded the second strongest non-thunderstorm wind gust during the Dec. 15 event – 81 mph at 10:39 p.m.

Photo by Soren M. Peterson

Wind damage sustained by the Traer redemption center Can Country as a result of the Dec. 15 derecho is pictured on Dec. 17. Contributed photo