Iowa DNR survey shows 2020 derecho damaged, destroyed 7.2 million trees, hitting Linn, Polk, Scott counties hardest
Iowa lost an estimated 7.2 million trees in cities and farms when last year's hurricane-force derecho swept across the state, a new Iowa Department of Natural Resources report shows.
Cedar Rapids, Des Moines and Davenport suffered the largest tree losses in the Aug. 10, 2020, storm, according to the DNR report, as winds surged up to 140 mph in some counties. The storm damaged thousands of homes, business and vehicles, along with a millions of acres of cropland.
Overall, Iowa cities lost about 4.5 million trees, or 13% of the state's 34 million urban trees, the report says. The storm damaged an estimate 32,773 acres of urban tree canopy. Iowa's rural lands lost 2.7 million trees, the state reported.
Linn County, where Cedar Rapids is located, lost 953,224 trees, the report says. The city of 132,000 has said it lost 669,000 mature trees, roughly 70% of its urban canopy.
Polk County and Des Moines lost 642,348 trees, and Scott County and Davenport lost 514,163 trees, the report estimates.
Other areas experiencing significant tree losses included West Des Moines and Dallas County (432,488); Clinton County (348,344); Ames and Story County (252,292); and Iowa City and Johnson County (234,567).
The state puts the costs to Iowa at $20 million annually, with the trees no longer able to capture and store carbon that contributes to climate change, reduce air pollution, and provide windbreaks and shade that cut energy use.
The state, with help from the U.S. Forestry Service and the Maryland Department of Agriculture, said it was able to directly assess damage in 74 incorporated communities. It conducted an aerial assessment of tree damage about a month after the derecho slammed into 27 counties across roughly the middle third of the state.
The state cumulatively sustained $11.5 billion in damage, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which calls the derecho "the costliest thunderstorm in U.S. history."
Iowa families and businesses have filed 225,000 claims for $3 billion in damage from the storm, the Iowa Insurance Division reports. Another 18,000 claims are outstanding, the agency said.
Donnelle Eller covers agriculture, the environment and energy for the Register. Reach her at email@example.com or 515-284-8457.