Thursday, May 13, 2021

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.