The August 2020 Midwest derecho caused $11 billion in damages — crops flattened

On this day in weather history, a major derecho hit the Midwest.

This Day In Weather History is a daily podcast by Chris Mei from The Weather Network, featuring stories about people, communities and events and how weather impacted them.


From August 10 - 11, 2020, a strong derecho travelled across the Midwestern United States, producing tornadoes, hail, and severe rain along its path.

Derecho is Spanish for "straight" — directionally speaking. A meteoroligical derecho is straignt-line wind storm. It's widespread and long-lived and comes with severe thunderstorms. It's a good fact to know as it's popped up in quiz shows.

The derecho that swept the Midwest predominantly impacted Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana. It caused approximately $11 billion in damages. The winds, tornadoes, hail and other severe weather damaged residential and commercial property, agriculture, and public utility infrastructure. Millions of people were affected. Four deaths are associated with the storms.


"A damaged farmhouse in Vinton, Iowa partially-covered by a mangled piece of grain bin sidewall on August 11, 2020." Courtesy of Wikipedia

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The storm developed early on August 10, 2020. The system started near the South Dakota-northeastern Nebraska border. In the afternoon, the storm moved into the Great Lakes region. It reached Illinois and Wisconsin around 2 p.m. and Indiana around 5 p.m. At around 6 p.m, the storm reached Michigan and slowly weakened as it moved into Ohio around 7:30 p.m.

Forest Park, Illinois Courtesy @LennyMartens via Storyful

Forest Park, Illinois. Courtesy of @LennyMartens via Storyful

The storm generally moved west-to-east at around 88.5 km/h. In Iowa and Illinois, wind speeds peaked at 177–225 km/h, which is equivalent to the wind speeds of a major hurricane.

From Aug. 10 - 13, around 1.9 million customers were affected by power outages and 340,000 customers reported internet outages.

The storm caused widespread damage to trees, completely uprooting whole trees. Trees fell on homes, vehicles, and electrical and telecommunications infrastructure, causing significant damage. Semi-trailer trucks and recreational vehicles were blown over and destroyed.

High winds from the August 10, 2020 derecho crushed these grain bins in Tama County, Iowa. Courtesy Kip Ladage via NWS-Des Moines, Iowa

"High winds from the August 10, 2020 derecho crushed these grain bins in Tama County, Iowa." Courtesy of Kip Ladage via NWS-Des Moines, Iowa

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The storm also flattened crops and destroyed farming infrastructures like silos and grain bins. The crop damage was so extensive it was visible in satellite imagery.


"A cornfield at sunset flattened by the high winds of the August 2020 Midwest derecho near Adel, Iowa." Courtesy of Wikipedia

Four people died due to storm-related incidents. A woman died in her mobile home when it was tipped over due to high winds. Two people died from falling trees and one person died by electrocution from a downed power line that he was trying to repair.

To learn more about the August 2020 Midwest derecho, listen to today's episode of "This Day In Weather History."

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