IOWA DERECHO 2020

Iowa storm updates: Latest info on cleanup, closures, power outages in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City areas

Here are the latest updates for Aug. 11 on storm cleanup, road closures, power outages and more in the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City areas. Gazette staff will continue to update this article as information is available throughout the day. 

For Wednesday, Aug. 12 updates, click here.

City of Cedar Rapids says water is safe

In apparent response to rumors, the city posted on its website and social media pages that the city's water is safe to drink. 

The city sent alerts and posted on Facebook: "RUMOR CONTROL: Cedar Rapids water remains available and safe to drink."

Cedar Rapids suspends city bus service, curfew still in effect

Cedar Rapids suspended city transit until further notice on Tuesday since many roads are still blocked with debris and power is still out in most of the city. 

The 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. citywide curfew that went into effect on Monday night is also still in place until further notice, the city said on its website. Police officers will be patrolling neighborhoods. Residents are asked to stay at home for their safety so streets can be cleared of debris and fallen utilities.

More updates at cedar-rapids.org.

» TREE DEBRIS: Here's how different cities are handling debris

Bicyclist riding during storm killed in Cedar Rapids

A Solon man was killed by falling trees Monday as strong storms ripped through Eastern Iowa.

According to a release from the Linn County Sheriff's Office, at 2 p.m. Monday, paramedics responded to an emergency call near Ely Road and Wright Brothers Boulevard on the biking trail. There they found the body of Thomas Rowland, 63, of Solon.

Officials said Rowland was riding on the trail when the storm blew through, bringing down several trees. Rowland was struck by one of the trees, according to the release.

Rowland sustained severe injuries that ultimately led to his death on the scene, according to the release.

Shelters and charging stations in Linn County

Shelters and charging stations are in the works in Linn County for those without power or displaced from Monday’s storm.  

Steve O’Konek, coordinator for the Linn County Emergency Management Agency, said the county is working on providing charging stations and shelters. As to the extent of damage in the county, he said it was “extensive and widespread.” 

In Marion, a temporary shelter has been set-up by the American Red Cross in the Thomas Park Safe Room, the city said in a news release Tuesday. Marion residents in need of a place to stay are advised to visit with the Red Cross in person at Thomas Park, according to the release. 

Additionally, power strips are available outside of the Marion Police Department for anyone needing to charge phones or other devices. 

Downtown farmers market canceled

The Downtown Cedar Rapids Farmers Market will be canceled on Saturday because of the severe weather Cedar Rapids experienced on Monday. Information about any future markets will be coming in the next few weeks, a spokesperson said.

Historic buildings damaged in Marion

A couple of historical buildings in Marion heavily affected by Monday’s derecho are trying to figure out plans moving forward. 

The Granger House Victorian Museum, located at 970 10th St, has significant damage due to the high winds. The roof the building blew off on one section of the house Adam Hyatt, the president of the museum said.  

“To be honest right now, we are all kind of working on our own homes,” Hyatt said. “I’m hoping at some point, we can get a large group of volunteers from the community to help clean up.” 

Hyatt said the ceiling of the Granger House is still intact and offers some protection to the interior of the building, though some water has been dripping on the inside of the house.  

“We did get some artifacts out of the house and into a safe place,” Hyatt said. “With the ceiling still standing, we got there early enough to move historical documents out of the way, hopefully everything is salvable.” 

Hyatt said the next step is to get on the phone with insurance and go from there.  

“We have to leave it in their hands at this point,” Hyatt said. “We will have to address all that as we can and keep pushing forward.” 

In Uptown Marion, across from the Marion Public Library, the first of the two historic house moves was supposed to take place on Wednesday morning. Joe Hill, owner of the property, said the house scheduled to move tomorrow was damaged severely. 

“The roof was completely blown off,” Hill said. 

Gov. Reynolds issues disaster proclamation for 20 counties

Iowa sustained “significant” infrastructure, financial and crop damage as hurricane-like storms devastated much of the state Monday, prompting Gov. Kim Reynolds to declare at least 20 counties as state disaster areas with expectations federal aid also will be requested as crews work to restore power to an estimated 450,000 households.

“Although it will take days or weeks to know the full scope of damage, initial reports are significant,” the governor told a Tuesday briefing. She said early reports indicate at least 10 million crop acres were impacted along with many buildings, and she spent part of Tuesday touring damaged areas of Tama and Linn counties and taking in aerial views of farms as state officials assess the destruction and make plans to seek federal assistance.

“I will be shocked” if Iowa doesn’t meet and exceed the federal threshold to qualify for a presidential disaster declaration, the governor told reporters. Reynolds urged residents in hard-hit areas to be patient in that it could take several days for utility crews to repair outages and she urged communities, farmers and others to document damage in anticipation of the federal disaster request.

Reynolds already has declared state disasters in 20 counties: Benton, Boone, Cedar, Clarke, Clinton, Dallas, Greene, Hardin, Iowa, Jasper, Johnson, Linn, Marshall, Muscatine, Polk, Poweshiek, Scott, Story, Tama, and Washington – and anticipated “that number will grow as more counties assess damage and their needs” and local officials request emergency assistance from the state.

The governor’s proclamation allows state resources to be utilized to respond to and recover from the effects of this severe weather in the affected counties.

The Iowa Individual Assistance Grant Program provides grants of up to $5,000 for households with incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level or a maximum annual income of $43,440 for a family of three. Grants are available for home or car repairs, replacement of clothing or food, and temporary housing expenses. Original receipts are required for those seeking reimbursement for actual expenses related to storm recovery. The grant application and instructions are available on the Iowa Department of Human Services website. Potential applicants have 45 days from the date of the proclamation to submit a claim. 

Disaster Case Management is a program to address serious needs to overcome a disaster-related hardship, injury or adverse condition. Disaster case managers work with clients to create a disaster recovery plan and provide guidance, advice and referral to obtain a service or resource. There are no income eligibility requirements for this program; it closes 180 days from the date of the governor's proclamation. For information on the Disaster Case Management Program, contact your local community action association or visit www.iowacommunityaction.org.

— Rod Boshart

Farms in Benton County assessing how may acres lost

Cleanup was well underway early Tuesday morning across Benton County as residents cleared off roadways and yards, even as the full extent of the damaged caused in this week’s storm remains unknown.

The straight-line winds caused massive damage to farms throughout the area, tearing down silos and grain bins, knocking down crops and damaging other buildings.

The extent of the damage to these farms is still unknown, according to officials with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. A spokesperson said Tuesday the state department is working with Iowa State University and the agribusiness associations to assess the impact.

“While we’re unable to quantify the number of acres lost at this time, we’re hearing of widespread crop damage,” said Keely Coppess, spokesperson for the IDA. “We’re also aware of commercial and on-farm grain storage losses, which may affect storage capacity during harvest. We are not aware of any livestock losses at this point.”

Jess Andrew, resident of Blairstown in Benton County, said her family’s farm saw widespread damage, including a shed and grain bin that were torn down in the wind.

“It’s bad,” Andrew said. “Farmers are going to have a hard time finding places to take their grain, because all of the grain bins are damaged. It’s going to affect a long time.”

Andrew expects the majority of crops damaged by the storm will be lost.

“Crops will be coming out the next couple months, and it’s hard to come back when corn is flattened or snapped off,” she said.
Andrew also owns the Blairstown Quick Shop, one of only a couple of businesses along Blairstown’s main thoroughfare were open Tuesday. Dozens of customers filtered into the darkened space throughout the morning to purchase ice.

The store had been without power since Monday afternoon. A generator powered a single freezer, but what food did not fit is considered a loss. It’s still unclear the extent of the damage to the property.

“You roll with the punches yesterday, and then reality sets in a little more today,” Andrew said.

Some residents of Blairstown, located about 30 miles south of Vinton, believe they will be without power for as much as a week, prompting some to attempt to travel as far as Nebraska for generators, according to residents who spoke to The Gazette on Tuesday.

» READ MORE FROM BLAIRSTOWN: Benton officials, farmers scramble in storm's aftermath

— Michaela Ramm

Johnson County EMA director: Damage highest in Solon; Linn County hit '10 times worse'

Plan for the worst and hope for the best.

That’s the message Tuesday from Johnson County Emergency Management Director Dave Wilson. Wilson said it could be three to four days before power is restored throughout the county after a powerful storm ripped through the state on Monday.

Monday’s derecho – a powerful, straight-line wind storm – was similar in ferocity to a storm that ravaged the county in 1998, Wilson said.

“It demolished a bunch of the county,” Wilson said of the 1998 storm.

The storm had 80 mph winds with some amateur reports of 113 mph gusts, Wilson said. The storm severely damaged trees, flipped over semis and sent debris flying.

“Basically, anything that wasn’t stapled down … became a flying projectile,” Wilson said.

There are reports of injuries, though those seem to be confined to those injured in storm-related vehicle crashes, Wilson said. He was not aware of any fatalities.

Wilson said Linn County was hit “10 times worse” than Johnson County. The magnitude of damage is highest in Solon, Wilson said. He added that densely populated areas of Iowa City and Coralville wild mature trees also saw a lot of damage.

Wilson said a countywide disaster declaration was made Monday after the storm. That allows the county to access state resources in responding to the storm. Should federal resources become available, the county will be able to access those, as well, Wilson said.

— Lee Hermiston

Iowa City crews surveying damage; Johnson County declares disaster

Monday’s storm caused widespread damage throughout Iowa City, Assistant City Manager Ashley Monroe said Tuesday.

“We have multiple neighborhoods that were impacted either in a minor way or a major way,” Monroe said. “We have streets that are clearly impacted by fallen power lines or service lines.”

Monroe said city crews worked late into the night to clear fallen trees from streets. However, in some areas, power lines have been entangled in fallen trees that have not yet been removed. Monroe said the city is working with MidAmerican Energy to address those.

Some traffic signals in the city remain without power and some city facilities lost power, as well. Monroe said the city obtained generators to get those facilities up and running in order to continue to provide services to citizens.

Johnson County declared a countywide disaster, which opens up resources to Iowa City, Monroe said. The city will work with the Department of Transportation to coordinate on debris collection, she said.

Some Corridor grocery stores still were without power Tuesday morning. The Hy-Vee on First Avenue in Iowa City is selling only nonperishables as store managers worked to put refrigerated items in cold storage trucks or throw the food away, district store director Tony Morrow said.

"There are people getting through, but they can’t get milk or meat or anything like that," he said. But "as many people are out of power, they aren’t going to stock up on groceries."

— Lee Hermiston and Erin Jordan

Over 100,000 still without power in Linn, Johnson counties

More than 100,000 residents in Linn and Johnson counties remain out of power Wednesday afternoon after a heavy storm with winds estimated at 100 miles per hour tore through much of the Midwest.

As of Tuesday at 4 p.m., almost all of Alliant Energy’s customers in Linn and Johnson counties still were without power. In Linn County, 94,788 of 97,603 customers were without power, 4,509 of 9,827 in Johnson County didn't have power.

MidAmerican Energy Company has 15,537 of its 47,836 Johnson County customers without power. Spokesman Geoff Greenwood said it "may be several days" before power is fully restored in Iowa. "Dozens of crews" are coming from other companies to help MidAmerican restore power, starting with areas of "critical need."

Almost two thirds of Linn County Rural Electric Cooperative’s customers in Linn and Johnson counties — 18,417 of 30,531 — were also still without power.

» MORE ON OUTAGES: Full, developing story about outages in Eastern Iowa

— John Steppe 

Storm debris collection in Iowa City

From the City of Iowa City:

Here is what residents can do with post-storm materials: Beginning Tuesday, August 11, 2020, City crews will remove storm debris that is at the back of the curb in the City Right of Way.

Do not place debris around fire hydrants, mail boxes, sign posts, or other obstructions. Please leave room around piles so equipment can safely access the debris.

1. Large limbs greater than four inches in diameter and longer than four feet, including tree trunks up to six feet in length, will be picked up with an endloader or skid steer. Please note collection may not happen on your regular garbage collection day.

2. Iowa City residents who have City of Iowa City curbside garbage pick-up service may place smaller limbs, sticks and loose leaf debris in yard waste containers (City issued carts or residents’ own containers sized between 20 and 35 gallons and weighing less than 50 pounds). These items will be picked up on normal garbage days and staff will run extra routes as staffing and equipment allow. Wood waste and brush that is four inches in diameter or less should be securely tied in bundles that are no bigger around than 18 inches and no more than 48 inches in length. Please note these will be picked up manually by staff so must meet the requirements to be picked up.

3. Residents of Iowa City, Johnson County, and other communities served by the Iowa City Landfill may also take limbs and wood debris directly to the Iowa City Landfill at 3900 Hebl Avenue SW, west of the City limits on Melrose Avenue / IWV Road. There are no size limitations or bundling requirements on limbs or branches that are dropped off at the Landfill, and no disposal fees are charged. Landfill hours are Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Please plan on long lines and wait times.

A video on how to properly dispose of materials can also be found online.

» TREE DEBRIS: Info from Cedar Rapids, Marion, Linn and Johnson, Coralville and North Liberty

No garbage collection Tuesday in Cedar Rapids

There will be no garbage, recycling, or yard waste collection on Tuesday. Sanitation crews have been redeployed to assist Public Works and Forestry crews with debris removal. Plans to restore collection services will be announced at a future date, pending debris removal. When collection resumes, garbage carts will be prioritized. City staff continue to work on plans for public debris removal.

Updates will be posted to the city's website at cedar-rapids.org.

Check back for updates.

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