IOWA DERECHO 2020

Iowa storm updates: Latest on power outages, cleanup in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City areas, Aug. 12

Here are the latest updates on storm cleanup, power outages and more in the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City areas for Wednesday, Aug. 12. Gazette staff will continue to update this article as information is available throughout the day. 

For Thursday's updates, click here.

» WHERE TO GET FOOD/WATER: Click here for details on food and water distribution sites

Over 107,000 still without power

Updated at 5:30 p.m.: On Wednesday evening, over 107,000 Linn and Johnson County residents were still without power. 

About 13,000 residents have restored power on Wednesday as at 10 a.m., over 120,000 residents were still without power.  

As of 5 p.m., 80,880 of 97,603 Alliant’s Linn County customers were still without power. In Johnson County, 3,256 of 9,827 Alliant customers do not have power.  

In a Wednesday afternoon statement, Alliant said power had been restored for close to 75,000 customers with most living in Williamsburg, Marengo and Jefferson.  

MidAmerican Energy Company has 11,392 of its 47,836 Johnson County customers without power. The company put out a statement early on Wednesday saying it had restored power to 130,000 of its customers statewide.  

Linn County Rural Electric Cooperative had 15,200 of its 29,880 Linn and Johnson County customers without power still as of 5 p.m. on Wednesday.  

All companies continue to ask residents to stay away from down power lines

Internet service providers Mediacom and ImOn are still prepping to restore services as well to area residents. Both companies have to wait for utility companies to restore power before they can fully get to work. 

Mediacom spokeswoman Phyllis Peters said on Wednesday evening that over 57,000 modems are still offline in the Eastern Iowa area with the largest impact area being Cedar Rapids by far.  

Between 5,000 and 7,000 homes came back online in those areas on Wednesday Peters said. 

Peters said the number includes Iowa City, North Liberty, Williamsburg and other smaller impact numbers in southeast Iowa. 

» OUTAGE UPDATES: Read more on power, internet outages in Eastern Iowa

The lights are back on in downtown Cedar Rapids according to a Wednesday news release from Alliant Energy. Power was also restored to parts of northeast Cedar Rapids, police said on social media early Wednesday.

“Power has been restored for now to a section of NE Cedar Rapids, to include the Lindale, Collins Aerospace, and Target NE area,” the Cedar Rapids Police Department posted on Facebook.

 

— Gage Miskimen 

How families that receive food assistance can replace spoiled food

Iowa families that currently receive Food Assistance can request to replace food destroyed or spoiled as the result of storm damage or power outage. The application form and instructions for submission can be found on the Department of Human Services website. Completed forms must be received by DHS 10 calendar days from date of discovery of food loss (not from when the storm/incident occurred) to be considered for replacement. There are minimum timeframes to claim spoilage as a result of a power outage. The outage must be at least four hours for refrigerated items and 24 to 48 hours for freezer replacement. 

Additionally, all eligible residents of disaster proclaimed counties can apply for the Iowa Individual Assistance Grant Program. The 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. Program application and instructions

If you or someone you know needs assistance accessing these resources, use the DHS Office Locator to find the nearest office, or call 1-877-347-5678

— news release from Iowa DHS

Where to charge medical equipment in the Cedar Rapids area

The following locations are open for residents who need a place to go to charge medical equipment or need a day shelter. Medical supplies are not available at these locations. Residents are asked to visit their medical care supply provider for new oxygen tanks, diabetic supplies, etc.

• Center Point: Anderson Public Library, Center Point Community Room, 720 Main St. 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday. Visitors must social distance. Only outlets with red-covered plates have power.

• Hiawatha: City of Hiawatha Community Center: 101 Emmons St. 7:30 a .m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday.

• Palo: City of Palo Community Center: 2800 Hollenbeck Road. 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday

• Robins: City of Robins Community Center: 265 S. Second St., 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday.

• Srpringville: City of Springville City Hall: 304 Broadway St. 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday.

• Coggon: Coggon Old Fire Station: 112 Second St. S. 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday. No air conditioning.

Because city transit is suspended, there is no public transportation available to these sites. 

Governor adds more counties to disaster proclamation

Gov. Kim Reynolds added three more counties to her state disaster proclamation, bringing the total to at least 23 counties in response to a severe weather system that moved across Iowa and caused widespread damage Monday.

On Wednesday, the governor added Jackson, Jones and Grundy to a list that already included Benton, Boone, Dallas, Cedar, Clarke, Clinton, Greene, Hardin, Iowa, Jasper, Johnson, Linn, Marshall, Muscatine, Polk, Poweshiek, Scott, Story, Tama, and Washington counties, and her office indicated proclamations may be issued for additional counties. She toured storm damage in Davenport and Marshalltown on Wednesday.

 

State officials are gathering damage reports with the expectation that the losses will be enough to trigger a presidential disaster proclamation request and assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in affected areas.

Reynolds’ proclamation allows state resources to be utilized to respond to and recover from the effects of this severe weather and activates the Iowa Individual Assistance Grant Program for qualifying residents, along with the Disaster Case Management Program.

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.

— Rod Boshart

Test Iowa sites damaged in storm reopen

Test Iowa sites in Central and Eastern Iowa damaged during Monday’s storm reopened Wednesday afternoon, state officials announced.

The sites in Cedar Rapids, Davenport and Marshalltown reopened for testing between 1 to 6 p.m. Wednesday. Regular testing hours, which are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., will resume Thursday.

Test Iowa will honor appointments for those who scheduled tests at the impacted sites earlier this week. They are not required to reschedule their appointments.

At their convenience, Iowans should bring the QR code from Test Iowa to any of the eight drive-thru sites throughout the state. The sites — in Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs, Davenport, Des Moines, Marshalltown, Storm Lake, Waterloo and West Des Moines — are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

— Michaela Ramm

Local hospitals see hundreds of patients after storm, many injuries from cleanup

Area hospitals are seeing hundreds of patients in their emergency rooms after this Monday's storm.

The Cedar Rapids hospitals – both still relying on backup generators as of Wednesday afternoon due to the city’s damaged power grid – said most patients are seeking aid for injuries related to the cleanup, including lacerations, injuries from falls and bumps on the head.

UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids saw more than 200 patients on Monday and Tuesday for storm-related injuries and health conditions, according to spokeswoman Sarah Corizzo.

At Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids, emergency room staff have reported nearly 250 visits related to the storm as of Wednesday afternoon. Spokeswoman Karen Vander Sanden said about 60 percent are for acute injuries related to storm cleanup.

Officials at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City also report patients with storm-related injuries in the past 48 hours. The majority are seeking treatment for bone and joint injuries because of falls, said Dr. Christopher Hogrefe, physician with UIHC emergency department.

Hospitals are also seeing some patients because underlying medical conditions were aggravated by the storm, such as those with heart and lung conditions. About 20 percent of emergency room patients at Mercy Cedar Rapids sought medical care for chest pain and labored breathing.

Mercy Iowa City, which did not lose power because of the storm, did not report any critical cases in its emergency room. Patients on Monday included those with lacerations and a truck driver whose rig overturned in the storm. Since Monday, the hospital has seen a number of patients with lacerations and chest pain as a result of the cleanup, but nothing considered a critical emergency, said Mercy Iowa City Spokeswoman Margaret Reese.

All area hospitals are preparing for more patients this week as cleanup conditions and the compounding effects of no power in residents’ homes are felt in the coming days.

— Michaela Ramm

Have big trees down? DNR forester says get professional help: "Life is worth waiting"

As Eastern Iowans consider using ladders, ropes and chainsaws to cut down trees or remove broken tree limbs, Iowa Department of Natural Resources District Forester Mark Vitosh has this advice: “If it’s something they haven’t been trained in, they shouldn’t be doing it.”

For damaged trees taller than 10 feet, Vitosh recommends calling a tree company or arborist to safely remove the tree or branches. These companies will prioritize trees that have fallen on buildings, cars or power lines or trees that are blocking roads, but they will eventually get to other customers, he said.

“Even if they have to wait months, life is worth waiting,” he said Wednesday.

With smaller trees, home owners can often use a pole pruner, perhaps with a small ladder, but it is good to have help and to be mindful of where pruned branches may fall.

When home owners are deciding whether to save a tree or cut it down, they should look for vertical cracks in the trunk or large branches that might cause the tree to further break apart. Another sign a tree might not be worth keeping is if the ground around it moves during high wind, indicating underground roots have broken.

“Usually if you lose more than 50 percent of the crown, then you really need to evaluate ‘Is this saveable?’,” Vitosh said.

He recommended reading the Iowa State University Extension publication about managing storm damaged trees, free to download.

— Erin Jordan 

Mercy Cedar Rapids Hospital open, but some clinics closed or rescheduling appointments

Mercy Cedar Rapids is open, safe and caring for staff and patients, a spokesperson said Wednesday morning. The main campus is still on backup power. 

The emergency department saw its highest volume of patients ever on Tuesday, and 60% to 80% had storm-related injuries.

While many departments, centers and clinics are still operational, some are closed or rescheduling non-emergency appointments. To check status of providers and/or appointments, call 319-398-6497.

MercyCare North Liberty Urgent Care, 1765 Lininger Lane, Suite 1, is open and caring for patients of locations that are temporarily closed. It's open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday, and the office can be reached at 319-665-3073

Outpatient dialysis patients should plan to attend their scheduled treatments on Wednesday at the Mercy Health Plaza or Vinton location. Mercy staff are attempting to get to patient homes for in-home dialysis.

Most elective procedures for Wednesday have been canceled. Provider’s offices are reaching out to reschedule. Specialty clinics (General Surgery, ENT, Urology, etc.) and most MercyCare family practice clinics – except MercyCare Monticello – are closed Wednesday.

All outpatient therapy locations are closed Wednesday. This includes physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy at: Plaza, Marion, Prairie Creek, Top Shape and the Mercy 600 building.

Other services closed also include Mercy Family Counseling, Sedlacek Treatment Center, and services at the Hiawatha Medical Park building.

No Hall-Perrine Cancer Center radiation treatments available.

Mercy College extends summer session; no internet at Coe College

Cedar Rapids’ area colleges and universities are continuing to clean up from and respond to Monday’s storm, with Coe College still without internet and Mount Mercy announcing an extended summer session.

Coe on Wednesday morning announced its days-long power outage had ended for some parts of campus but was continuing for others – with more than 15 residence halls, apartment complexes, and other buildings still without electricity and 15 now with power.

Coe buildings still in the dark include the Whipple Firehouse, its apartments, and several residence halls. Those with power include five residence halls, its fieldhouse and athletics complex, the physical plant, Stewart Memorial Library, and Gage Memorial Union.

“We do not know when power will be restored to the remainder of campus,” according to a Coe update on its Facebook page Wednesday. “Move-in and COVID-19 testing appointments scheduled for today and tomorrow are postponed.”
The college will distribute rescheduling information and news about Friday and Saturday planned move-in and testing “as soon as it becomes available.”

Coe also reported it’s still working to restore internet and technology access – although campus phones not connected to cellular service are in operation.

At Mount Mercy, a mile north, the campus remained closed Wednesday in the wake of “significant damage” from Monday’s derecho.

“All students and employees are advised to stay home until further notice,” according to a message on its website.

 

Student-athletes were supposed to begin moving in Wednesday through Friday, with first-year and returning students scheduled to move in Aug. 20-22. But move-in “is delayed until further notice,” according to the Mount Mercy update.

“So please pause your return to campus,” officials requested Tuesday, noting power and cell service were still out. “Residence Life staff will be in contact with you, and they are working with students currently on campus to ensure safe living and dining accommodations.”

Mount Mercy’s summer session was supposed to end Thursday, and the fall semester was supposed to begin Aug. 26. But in a Wednesday morning message on its Facebook page, Mount Mercy reported the summer 2020 session had been “extended indefinitely” and that more information is forthcoming.

— Vanessa Miller

Garbage pickup will resume Thursday in Cedar Rapids

There will again be no garbage, recycling or yard waste pickup in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, but garbage collection will resume Thursday, the city announced. 

Recycling pickup is temporarily suspended and the city will announce later when it will resume.

Garbage pick up will be Thursday for neighborhoods with regular collection on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Pickup will be Friday for usual Thursday and Friday customers. If crews are unable to get to homes, they will collect next week. 

Crews will attempt to resume regularly scheduled collection next week. 

Bags of spoiled food should be placed in garbage carts first, and extra bags should be placed beside the cart. Bags of spoiled food outside of the cart should be double- or triple-bagged, the city requests. Extra garbage bags must weigh less than 40 pounds.

If you usually place your cart in an alley for collection, place it at the street in front of your house this week, the city said. If there is not room for your cart in front of your home, work with neighbors to establish a cart collection zone where several carts can be placed next to each other.

To sign up for city updates, visit www.CRNewsNow.com

Several Linn County government buildings damaged

Various Linn County buildings sustained different levels of damage due to the derecho storm on Monday.

Steve Estenson, risk manager for Linn County Risk Management said there was limited damage to the county building, 935 2nd St. Sw. Most county buildings had been running on generators as of Tuesday night.

Estenson said some overhead doors blew in at the Sheriff’s Office and at the LIFTS department. He said the Correctional Center has damage to the roof and some of the fascia.

The Community Services Building has damage to the siding, but the Public Service Center appears to be unharmed Estenson said. Each location in the county did have tree damage.

The Linn County courthouse has minimal damage as well.

Estenson said Linn County Conservation is experiencing “massive amounts of tree damage.”

“Campgrounds were destroyed, laying many campers on their sides and covering the campgrounds with debris,” he said.

Conservation’s main office at Wickiup Hill has damage from falling trees and a cold storage building at Squaw Creek Park was lost. A service area shop on County Home Road and Highway 13 sustained roof and siding damage.

Estenson said the Engineering Office sustained a “large quantity of tree damage” and a county-owned barn at County Home Road and Highway 13 was destroyed as well.

— Gage Miskimen

Food that's been in fridge without power is not safe to eat, health officials warn

As Cedar Rapids and other parts of Eastern Iowa reach the second day without power, public health officials warn residents their refrigerated food may no longer be safe to eat.

Linn County Public Health issued an advisory Tuesday evening emphasizing the importance of food safety during power outages, stating that frozen or refrigerated food “may not be safe to eat if the power has gone out for extended periods.”

If individuals keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed, food will stay safe for:

• Up to four hours in a refrigerator
• Up to 48 hours in a full freezer
• Up to 24 hours in a half-full freezer

The temperature of the freezer space should be at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. It is safe to refreeze or cook thawed food if it still contains ice crystals or is at or below 40 degrees.

Perishable food – such as meat, fruit, vegetables, eggs and milk – should be thrown out after four hours without a cold source. Residents should dispose of any food with an unusual color, odor or texture.

— Michaela Ramm

Check these tips before using generators, chain saws

Public health officials reminded residents undergoing the cleanup effort to take certain precautions to avoid injury.

“We want residents to pay special attention to generator safety and proper use of equipment such as chainsaws used to clean up debris, as well as food safety as outages continue,” said Linn County Public Health Director Pramod Dwivedi in a statement. “Storm clean up and recovery is a challenging time, but some simple steps can keep everyone healthy as we respond to severe weather.”

Generators should be at least 20 feet from the home, and should never be used indoors because these machines can produce high levels of carbon monoxide very quickly.

Opening doors and windows will not help prevent carbon monoxide build up in the home. If you feel sick, dizzy or weak while using a generator, get fresh air right away and call 911.

Public health officials also urged caution when using chain saws while clearing away trees this week, which is among common concern when cleanup is underway. Operators should ensure they are following all manufacturer recommendations for the safe operation, maintenance and adjustment of the saw. 

Here are other tips from Linn County Public Health:

• Operators should wear protective gear, including a hard hat, safety glasses, hearing protection, heavy work gloves, cut-resistant legwear and boots that cover the ankle.
• Avoid working around downed power lines, even if you know they are not live.
• If serious injury occurs, apply direct pressure to the wound and call 911 immediately.

— Michaela Ramm

Marion warns of fire risks after two house fires

News release from City of Marion:

The Marion Fire Department responded to two house fires last night. One was a 50 percent loss and the other a total loss. Both were caused by open flames being used as a light source during the power outage.

The Marion Fire Department offers these important reminders:
Do not have a burning flame within three feet of combustibles (any item that can burn).
Make sure the candle or lamp is not on a plastic surface.
Do not leave an open flame unattended.
Make sure the flame is completely out before leaving the room and no longer producing smoke.
If possible, use battery-powered or solar-powered lighting.
If you have pets, please try to avoid using open flames.

As storm clean-up continues, be sure to protect the area around fire hydrants and keep yard waste or debris away from the hydrants. Three feet of clearance should be maintained on all sides.

Cedar Rapids curfew in effect, transit suspended

A nightly curfew is in effect indefinitely from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. in Cedar Rapids as crews continue to work to restore power and clear debris. Transit service also has been suspended until further notice, according to the city. 

For more city updates, visit cedar-rapids.org.

 

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