116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — Iowa individuals, businesses and government agencies are offering their services to Hurricane Ian recovery efforts in Florida and other southern states.
More than 2.6 million lost power in Florida as a result of Hurricane Ian’s destruction, according to the Associated Press. Ian left a broad swath of destruction in Florida on Wednesday, flooding areas on both of its coasts, tearing homes from their slabs and demolishing beachfront businesses, before slamming South Carolina.
“Kevin and I join with Iowans in extending our deepest sympathies to the State of Florida and all those affected by Hurricane Ian,” Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said in a statement. “The catastrophic damage is unfathomable and heartbreaking, and we continue to pray for Floridians as they begin the cleanup and rebuilding process.”
A spokesman for the governor’s office said the Iowa National Guard, as well as the state departments of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, and Health and Human Services have been in contact with officials in Florida.
Those Iowa agencies have not yet been asked to assist in the recovery, but that could change as Florida’s assessments continue over the coming days, the governor’s spokesman said.
Des Moines-based MidAmerican Energy was sending an emergency response team of nearly 80 employees to Georgia at the request of Georgia Power, the company said. The team consists of line crews and supervisory and support teams, and the company also will send utility trucks and equipment.
The crew members come from MidAmerican facilities in Davenport, Bettendorf and Waterloo, a company spokesman said.
“We don’t know exactly where our crews will end up, depending on the damage, but we do know that MidAmerican employees are up to the task of restoring customers whose lives are disrupted by Hurricane Ian,” John Guy, MidAmerican’s vice president of electric delivery, said in a statement. “We know from experience how important it is for a utility to get help quickly when disaster strikes.”
Alliant Energy, which is based in Wisconsin but serves roughly 500,000 electricity and 225,000 natural gas customers in Iowa, has released roughly 100 contractors employed by other companies so those workers can assist in the recovery efforts, a company spokesperson said.
West Des Moines-based grocery chain Hy-Vee sent its disaster relief fleet Friday to Florida with the goal of providing up to 1 million meals to the recovery efforts, the company said in a news release.
Hy-Vee’s relief fleet includes a mobile water system with a tank and pump trailer, two pickup trucks and nine semi trailers filled with water, ice, snacks, protein, and cleaning supplies, the company said. The company is sending 23 employees with the fleet, which is scheduled to remain in Florida for 12 days.
Willie Ray’s Q Shack
After several trips down South to feed the masses after disasters, Cedar Rapids barbecue restaurant icon Willie Ray Fairley, owner of Willie Ray’s Q Shack, is planning another trip now.
Fairley’s team still is planning the logistics, but tentatively plans to leave for Florida on Oct. 7. His team hopes to serve Floridians in the Fort Myers and Lee County area from Oct. 9 through Oct. 13.
“The main thing right now is figuring out where we’re going to set up at,” he told The Gazette. “We need to make sure we have everything so we’re suited and booted and ready to go.”
Fairley typically needs a crew of about six people to run grills, prepare and serve food. Often feeding over 1,000 people each day, his humanitarian missions cost tens of thousands of dollars.
His last trip to Kentucky to feed tornado victims cost about $20,000 in a more rural area than the one he plans to visit in Florida. He was able to raise about $13,000 to $14,000 to defray the costs. During each trip, his restaurant on Blairs Ferry Road in northeast Cedar Rapids remains closed.
To support the mission, the public can donate via Venmo to @WillieRaysQShack. The code needed to complete the donation is 3806.
Seventeen American Red Cross volunteers from Iowa — eight of whom are from Eastern Iowa — are in Florida supporting the response to Hurricane Ian. Some of these volunteers have been in Florida for days, preparing for the storm and supporting residents who evacuated their homes, said Emily Holley, American Red Cross regional communications manager.
Red Cross emergency response vehicles from Waterloo and Burlington were also being dispatched to Florida.
As of early Friday morning, 1,300 Red Cross disaster workers from across the country were supporting hurricane relief efforts in Florida and South Carolina, with more are on the way, Holley said.
Before the storm, the Red Cross mobilized 83 truckloads of additional cots, blankets and comfort kits, along with tens of thousands of relief supplies, to be prepared to help as many as 60,000 people, according to a news release.
In 2020 and 2021 alone, Holley said the Red Cross averaged a new major disaster response every 10 days with Red Cross volunteers continually on the ground setting up shelters and serving meals.
She noted many of the volunteers recently deployed to Florida, including one volunteer from Iowa City, had been sent from California, where they were volunteering to respond to wildfires.
Volunteers from Iowa are also in Puerto Rico to support Hurricane Fiona response efforts and in Alaska as part of the response to Typhoon Merbok.
Holley said the best way Iowans and others can help is by donating to the Red Cross or signing up to be a volunteer at redcross.org.
People interested in supporting those affected by Hurricane Ian can also call 1-800-RED CROSS to donate or text the word IAN to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
In addition, the Red Cross sent several hundred type O blood products to Florida to ensure blood remains available for patients in areas impacted by the storm. In unaffected areas, individuals are urged to make blood and platelet donation appointments through the Red Cross website.
Tom Barton and Elijah Decious of The Gazette contributed.
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