CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -(Ben Caxton)— Peter Teahen has seen over a dozen hurricanes in his work with the Red Cross. He even watched Katrina make landfall.
He says what he watched rip through his hometown of Cedar Rapids August 10th felt like déjà vu.
The first emergency shelter, set up by the Red Cross at Thomas Park in Marion, was operational within hours of the storm.
“If there’s a need, the shelters are here,” Teahen says.
That need has diminished somewhat in the ten days since the Iowa derecho. Of three shelters, only one at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum remains. It houses 50 to 64 people every night, Teahen says. Many of those who sought shelter early on didn’t stay long.
“It is a positive sign and that’s typically what we see in shelters, especially in the Midwest,” Teahen says.
Though in the basement of the Coliseum, located at 50 2nd Avenue Bridge, you can still see the need.
Cots, spaced by CDC standards during the on-going COVID pandemic, fill the concrete floor. A cafeteria counter sits full of food.
“We’ve done over 20,000 meals and over 3,500 snacks so far,” Teahen says, adding the Red Cross has worked with other organizations on that process.
There are also resources for people who need clothing or medical help.
“If it wasn’t for these people, the Red Cross, I wouldn’t have a roof over my head. I wouldn’t have a cot to sleep on,” says Rickey Wells.
Wells says she’s “been on the streets a while” and was in Greene Square when the storm hit; she and others took refuge in the library. She came to the shelter when the location at the Coliseum opened that Friday.
Elijah Nolan was staying with a friend downtown and watched as the derecho stalled cars on I-380 and killed power. He can’t go back to his job as a cook until it’s restored across town. His friend went to stay with family.
“Unfortunately it was a little strange for me to tag along so I decided to find my own way,” he says.
In all, over 1,000 people have found their way through the three Red Cross shelters. Now 71 are living temporarily in hotels.