IOWA DERECHO 2020

More than 5,000 in Cedar Rapids area still without internet after derecho

Crews working through rain, extensive damage to networks to restore service

A lineman works at restoring power in an alley behind B Avenue NE in northeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Wednesday, Aug. 19
A lineman works at restoring power in an alley behind B Avenue NE in northeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020. People are still cleaning up and without power since the Aug. 10 derecho storm. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — More than 5,500 Mediacom and ImOn Communications customers still are without service almost a month after the Aug. 10 derecho’s hurricane-force winds downed trees and power lines.

Steve Purcell, the regional vice president of Mediacom, told the Cedar Rapids City Council on Tuesday that crews still have to go house by house to make final repairs and restore power to a remaining 7 percent of Cedar Rapids customers, or just under 3,700 as of Tuesday morning. The company hopes to have restored power to 97 percent of customers by the end of the week.

“The entire crew worked through the weekend, and they’re going to stay on until we get this completed,” Purcell said.

By early Wednesday, Purcell said, Mediacom expects to have an interactive tracker displaying the percentage of those without service in a given neighborhood.

He said delays in restoring service are a result of damage from the storm. This initially made it unsafe to reach many of the locations without service.

“We’ll be continuing working on this storm quite a ways even after all the customers are up, just getting our network back to the capability that it should run on on a regular basis,” Purcell said.

ImOn spokeswoman Lisa Rhatigan said 90 percent of customers in Cedar Rapids, Marion and Hiawatha have service now, but 1,931 customers still did not have service as of 6:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Thirty hubs in the city feed nodes that connect to provide internet service to customers’ homes. Of 1,100 nodes, four still need to be restored, she said. ImOn expects those four nodes to be up and running within the next 48 hours.

Crews are visiting neighborhoods to repair the drop from customers’ houses to the poles, she said.

Power may fluctuate in the meantime, as energy companies put in place temporary fixes to restore power to customers immediately after the storm.

“People get frustrated because they’ll say, ‘All you need to do is reconnect that line to my house and my service will be back up,’ but that isn’t always the case,” Rhatigan said.

She said more than 25 miles of network sections were either down or damaged after the storm, but identifying and repairing damage and ordering parts to fix it has been a challenge.

“There are long wait times,” Rhatigan said. “All of that has been feeding into this frustratingly long repair.”

In the meantime, Mediacom and ImOn have free community Wi-Fi hot spots for people who still do not have service.

City Council member Ashley Vanorny raised concerns about the impact extended service outages have on those taking online classes or working from home in the COVID-19 environment.

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“I know that this is probably one of the biggest things other than intermittent power breaks that our citizens are struggling with,” Vanorny said.

Comments: (319) 398-8494; marissa.payne@thegazette.com

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