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A year after the derecho, support for customers continues


One year ago, a derecho tore across several midwestern states, hitting eastern Iowa particularly hard. An American Family agency owner reflects on the company's response and how the community came together. 

One year ago, a derecho tore across several midwestern states, hitting eastern Iowa particularly hard. High winds dropped trees onto homes and ripped off roofs, causing extensive damage which was exacerbated by heavy rainfall and widespread electrical outages.

“Our thoughts are with everyone who was affected by the storm,” said Kurt Gustafson, an American Family Insurance agency owner in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Along with most of his customers, Gustafson’s agency was initially without power. Immediately following the storm, he and his staff called hundreds of claims into the company’s care center on behalf of customers from a makeshift outdoor “office” using their cell phones.

“We all had to charge our phones in our cars because there was no electricity,” Gustafson said. “There were also no open gas stations, so we were careful to use our phones only for the most important things.”

Gustafson’s customers had more than 500 claims as a result of the storm, and the company received more than 8,000 in Iowa alone. The American Family Insurance Dreams Foundation donated $10,000 for disaster relief in Iowa and Illinois in the wake of the storm.

Brad Lehman, a claims administrator who has extensive experience responding to severe weather said this was one of the most intense storms he’d ever seen. Lehman was one of eight experienced claims professionals who traveled to Iowa to work side-by-side with agency owners to respond to customer questions.

“When I arrived, they already had a spot for me and customers ready with questions,” Lehman said. “We wanted to make sure to be right there to take care of customers affected by the storm.” And, of course, this all needed to be done in accordance with COVID safety protocols, Lehman noted.

According to Gustafson, one of the most remarkable things was how people took care of each other.

His support of community and his customers continues every day. On the anniversary, Gustafson is throwing party at a local restaurant to thank his customers and staff and acknowledge what they’ve been through together.

“People just helped each other out – churches, neighbors, everyone. We joke about the season of chain saws, followed by the season of nail guns,” he said. “I’ve never been prouder to be an Iowan.”


About the American Family Insurance group
Based in Madison, Wisconsin, American Family Insurance has been serving customers since 1927. We inspire, protect and restore dreams through our insurance products, exceptional service from our agency owners and employees, community investment and creative partnerships to address societal challenges. We act on our belief in diversity and inclusion by constantly evolving to meet customer needs and preferences. American Family Insurance group is the nation’s 13th-largest property/casualty insurance group, ranking No. 232 on the Fortune 500 list. The group sells American Family-brand products, primarily through exclusive agency owners in 19 states. The American Family Insurance group also includes CONNECT, powered by American Family Insurance, The General, Homesite and Main Street America. Across these companies the group has more than 13,500 employees nationwide.