116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — When Iowa was hit last year by a hurricane-strength storm, disaster response teams from across the country came to help provide food and restore power. Now Iowa is paying it forward.
Alliant Energy, MidAmerican Energy and the regional Red Cross are all sending teams to Louisiana to help victims of Hurricane Ida, a Category 4 storm that hit the Louisiana coast Sunday morning and left more than 1 million people in Louisiana and Mississippi without power.
Over 25,000 utility workers were in the state as of Monday to help restore electricity, with more on the way, the Associated Press reported. Officials said it could take weeks to repair the power grid.
Additionally, the Federal Emergency Management Agency had staged in advance of the storm some 3.4 million meals along with water, tarps and generators, the AP reported.
“The Red Cross has around 600 volunteers that are either on the ground in Louisiana now, or are in route,” said Emily Holley, communications manager for the Nebraska-Iowa region of the Red Cross. “I think they are a little more than 300 folks that are on the ground now, and then we have folks that are deploying from all over the country to go down to the Gulf Coast and support the response.”
Of those, about 22 people are from this region, 17 of whom from Iowa. The Red Cross also is sending five emergency response vehicles.
“And they are bringing supplies like cots, blankets, toiletries … a lot of water and those heater meals, where if you if you mix them with water they heat on their own,” Holley said.
The Red Cross started setting up shelters over the weekend before the storm hit, Holley said, to ensure people who evacuated had a place to go.
“I can tell you that we currently have about 16 Red Cross shelters across Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas,” she said. “And just last night, more than 2,500 people sought refuge in those shelters, and we're expecting that number to increase in the coming days.”
While the Red Cross is helping take care of people’s immediate needs with shelter, food and toiletries, Alliant Energy and MidAmerican Energy are sending crews down to Louisiana to help with repairs and power restoration.
Melissa McCarville, senior communications partner for Alliant Energy, said the utility sent 125 employees and more than 160 contractors, as well as trucks and materials, to Baton Rouge to help restore power.
“We saw firsthand the important role that the sharing of resources and collaboration plays in restoration and recovery efforts when crews from across the country and Canada helped us following last year's derecho here in Iowa,” she told The Gazette. “So we're doing now what we can to help Entergy — that's the utility company serving the Louisiana area — and the people of Louisiana. At Alliant Energy, one of our values is to do the right thing, and this is the right thing.”
The Alliant crews are expected to stay in Louisiana for about two weeks, McCarville said, but that could change as the situation continues to evolve. Sending additional crews could also be a possibility. The deployment, she added, will not impact customers in Alliant service areas.
MidAmerican Energy also is sending resources. Geoff Greenwood, media relations manager for MidAmerican, said the request for help came late Monday afternoon.
“MidAmerican will send 120 crew members and equipment to southern Louisiana,” Greenwood said. “Those crew members include MidAmerican employees and crews under contract by MidAmerican. The contingent of MidAmerican employees and contractors will include line crews, support staff (supervisory, safety and logistics) and vegetation management teams.”
The storm response team members all volunteered for the assignment, the company said in a news release Tuesday.
The crews are scheduled to report to a staging location in the Baton Rouge area later this week to receive their assignments, the news release said. It’s not yet clear how long crews will be there.
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