Three School of Planning and Public Affairs alums have been instrumental in helping Cedar Rapids, Iowa, recover from the derecho that hit the city in August 2020. What is a derecho? According to Webster’s Dictionary, “a large fast-moving complex of thunderstorms with powerful straight-line winds that cause widespread destruction.” A Washington Post story indicates the derecho was the most costly thunderstorm disaster in U.S. history. Soon after it hit, Iowa’s Governor, Kim Reynolds, requested a disaster declaration and estimated the damage at nearly $4 billion.
Our three alums involved in the recovery process include Tracey Achenbach, Executive Director of the Housing Fund for Linn County and Community Development & Housing Director for the Eastern Central Iowa Council of Governments (ECICOG); Ashley Balius, Linn County Director of Community Outreach and Assistance; and Stephanie Murphy, executive director of the Neighborhood Finance Corporation. The trio have helped develop one of the core initiatives responding to the derecho damage in Cedar Rapids: the Providing Assistance to Community Homeowners (PATCH) program. Months later, as the long recovery process continues, they have been featured in a news story by the University of Iowa Graduate College.
The full article, “Alumni Take Leading Role in Derecho Response Initiative,” may be read on the Graduate College’s website.