Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Heide Castañeda, Ph.D.

Committee Member

E. Christian Wells, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Rebecca Zarger, Ph.D.


Communitas, Derecho, Disaster response, Meaning making, Social network analysis, Social support


On the afternoon of August 10th, 2020 a straight line windstorm, referred to as a derecho, tore across the Midwest. Derechos are often described as an “inland hurricane,” with wind gusts exceeding 58 mph. This thesis explores how Iowans relied on social networks to recover from the derecho. Personal networks were analyzed to understand how people utilized relationships for specific types of support. The relationships investigated included informal and formal sources such as family, friends, neighbors, government, volunteers, non-governmental organizations, and self-reliance. Data were collected on social networks and storm recovery through a survey and semi-structured interviews. Using anthropological theories on social networks, disasters, social support, and environmental justice, this research investigated how people relied, or not, on their relationships to access information and resources to support their recovery. Findings indicate that family, friends, and neighbors were the most frequently utilized sources of support and the labor and material/tangible resources were the most frequently mentioned support types. These findings are interpreted by understanding the persistence and reliance on what Iowans experience as “self-sufficient values” and how this interacts with experiences of stigma and perceived shame of needing help. Additionally, the construction of meaning surrounding the disaster is used to further contextualize social network activation. The findings offer insights into how disaster planning and policies could benefit from understandings how local communities engage their networks for social support and how network data could be utilized.