Supporting the Recovery of Iowa Businesses in the Wake of a Powerful Derecho Storm

Disaster Recovery

On August 10, 2020, a derecho storm tore through eastern Iowa, destroying everything in its path. The storm caused intermittent straight-line winds in the 100-130 mph range with maximum estimated winds at 140 mph, which is comparable in strength to an F3 tornado or major hurricane. While derecho storm winds are commonly 10-20 minutes in duration, this storm had high winds that lasted upwards of 30-60 minutes, causing catastrophic damage and destruction to any buildings, vehicles, crops, trees, and power lines in its path.

The Cedar Rapids area, home to Involta’s headquarters, sustained some of the most intense storm damage, taking the brunt of the 140 mph winds. According to NOAA, an estimated 90% of structures in Cedar Rapids were damaged by the storm, and more than 1,000 homes were destroyed.

In the aftermath, both the local Involta team and employees from other markets did everything we could to support our customers and fellow Iowans during the cleanup and rebuilding efforts.

Outcome Summary

  • Involta not only provided expert support to our customers in the aftermath of a catastrophic natural disaster, we also showed our #IowaStrong mentality and unwavering support for our community.
  • Involta’s superior infrastructure performed as expected, resulting in zero facility power loss.
  • Involta’s continued availability and disaster recovery experts helped dozens of regional businesses get back up and running within hours.
  • Involta’s flexibility and disaster preparedness enabled us to provide other organizations with work stations, network connectivity, computers, and phone lines to use if their primary work locations were not operational.

The Challenges

The storm left more than 1.9 million residents and businesses without power for nearly a week across Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, Minnesota and Indiana. Months later, the total damage from the derecho storm was estimated at $7.5 billion, making it the most costly storm event in modern U.S. history.

Helping Involta Customers Recover Quickly

Our Involta team has always been by our customers’ sides through catastrophic weather events, including the devastating floods in Iowa in 2008. Through our experience over the years, we have refined our processes and procedures to ensure strong communication channels to make critical information accessible in the aftermath of a disaster. Since 2008, we have also evolved our data center facilities to provide the superior infrastructure and services to withstand similar levels of destruction and disasters with utility and network redundancy.

Once the derecho storm passed, our Cedar Rapids and Marion employees worked tirelessly to stabilize businesses’ work environments from the physical to the virtual. Meanwhile, Involtans from our Duluth, Minnesota, and Youngstown, Ohio, offices traveled to Cedar Rapids to support and aid the work of our headquarters’ employees. They also brought essential and much needed supplies, including cases of water, power strips and generators.

Supporting Neighbors Across the Community

Involta’s support of the community went beyond our customers to our neighbors, as well. Our employees volunteered for organizations, including the Iowa Derecho Relief Center in Cedar Rapids, where they provided physical and emotional support. As volunteers, they worked on unpacking and sorting donations. In addition, they also spent time in various neighborhoods surveying needs, listening to personal stories, and directing people to the right places so they could get the help they needed.

With our headquarters based in the area, unfortunately, our team members were not spared damage to their homes and property. Involta team members were ready and willing to help each other with personal cleanup and repair efforts or covering each other’s work schedules while they were taking care of significant damage to their homes.

The Transition

As local businesses scrambled to execute their disaster recovery plans, if they had them, others were trying to find their way through the darkness. Many of them, whether they were customers or not, turned to Involta for help.

Zero Downtime

  • Our infrastructure performed as expected, resulting in zero facility power loss – even while area utilities were offline for 100 hours due to significant damage to the utility company’s power infrastructure.
  • Our ability to withstand a destructive storm like this allowed us to extend capabilities and services to our customers to continue and maintain their operations.
  • Many of our customers leveraged Involta’s managed and cloud services as part of their disaster recovery plan to keep their environments up and running.

Communication Support

  • The area sustained significant damage to the communications infrastructure and, in response, our carrier neutral facility allowed us to transition critical services to other providers; a quick pivot and the ability to bring in new carriers for additional backup and connectivity.
  • During a time period where cellular communication wasn’t available or reliable, Involta customers were able to leverage infrastructure at the data center to continue to communicate with their own customers and employees.

Continued Availability

  • With our continued availability, we were able to provide other organizations with work stations, network connectivity, computers, and phone lines to use if their primary work areas were not functional.

The Impact

During the August 2020 derecho storm, Involta maintained production operations for more than a dozen customers in our Marion data center. Each customer had a unique experience with the storm. Here are just a few examples of their experiences with our team.

Financial Services Provider

With a robust disaster recovery plan in place implemented immediately by Involta, the customer was able to survive the storm and see its resilient plan in action. The planning that was done in relation to power, structural integrity and more came together, providing the accessibility necessary to power through disruptions, avoiding downtime, and continuing business operations.

Manufacturing and Process Company

With significant damage to their offices and manufacturing facilities, Involta helped the company move into our state-of-the-art Marion data center, so that they could be online and running within hours.

Research Company

When the Windstream point-to-point WAN circuit went down between Involta’s Marion data center and their Headquarters, Involta helped the company by providing a substantial 30-day temporary increase to internet bandwidth so they could leverage that bandwidth and get their data replicated between sites.

Related Resources

Are You Prepared with a Disaster Recovery Plan?

Investing in a business continuity plan or leveraging Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS) is the most reliable way to avoid catastrophic data loss or unplanned downtime.

Learn More About DRaaS

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