IOWA DERECHO 2020

Thousands without power, homes devastated in aftermath of destructive storm

Power outages pervasive as Cedar Rapids enforces curfew

Born west of Iowa and picking up intensity as it approached Eastern Iowa, a horrifying storm Monday brewing gusts estimated at 100 mph downed scores of trees, blew off roofs and walls, overturned trucks and left thousands without power — likely for days.

Some 50 people showed up at hospitals around the Cedar Rapids area with injuries, according to Cedar Rapids Public Safety spokesman Greg Buelow. Crews also responded to several incidents involving bone fractures and at least one head injury, he said.

Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart said his wife was hit as two trees fell onto his house.

“My wife got hit as she was running through the bedroom by the tree limb that’s sticking through our ceiling, but she’s OK,” he said.

MORE ON THE STORM:

LATEST UPDATES:Check here for the most recent news on cleanup, outages and more

POWER OUTAGES:The latest on power outages in Eastern Iowa

PHOTOS:Flip through the images of the devastation in Linn, Johnson counties

With many neighborhoods impassible, the city of Cedar Rapids enacted a curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. until further notice.

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“The police department will be patrolling neighborhoods. We are asking for residents to stay at home for their safety so streets can be cleared of debris and fallen utilities,” the city said in a statement.

Iowa City did not announce any curfew.

Cedar Rapids also will declare a disaster and seek state government assistance, City Manager Jeff Pomeranz said.

“There’s just destruction throughout the entire community,” he said. “ ... This is a very serious event and we’re taking every action to make sure that the city is restored to the best of our ability.”

Pomeranz said he wasn’t immediately sure what the state assistance might yield, but said that “we’ve all been suffering with the impact of COVID on our community, so this is just something additional to deal with. It’s tough for people, it’s tough for businesses, and it’s hard for the city as well as the other services.”

Pat Garrett, a spokesman for Gov. Kim Reynolds, said in a statement that the governor plans to give an update on storm damage at her 11 a.m. Tuesday news conference.

Power could be out for days

Thousands in the region were left without electricity — and at least for some it’s almost certain to last for days.

As of about 4:30 p.m., 95,270 out of 97,603 Alliant Energy customers in Linn County had power out. It was 9,399 out of 9,827 in Johnson County.

MidAmerican Energy said about half of its 47,836 customers in Johnson County were without electricity.

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MidAmerican spokesman Geoff Greenwood said it will take some customers “more than a day” to have power restored. MidAmerican has requested assistance from other utilities for up to 2,000 workers.

The storm affected much of the region, though, increasing the demand for utilities help.

“Those utilities are going to be seeking assistance as well,” Greenwood said. “This is going to affect a lot of customers in the Midwest.”

When the storm passed through in about two hours, neighbors emerged with chain saws to clear trees that blocked roads. People stopped their cars to get out and direct traffic. Municipal crews spread out in a daunting chore of clearing paths for traffic through what looked like a carpet of leaves and large debris.

Among other developments as local governments sought to cope with the destruction:

• All Cedar Rapids Community School District school buildings were closed to staff until further notice. Kennedy High School Principal Jason Kline tweeted Monday that damage to that school was “widespread” but no one was hurt. Preservice and new teacher orientation, which began Monday, was postponed. So was a school board meeting where it was expected that members would set a date to begin school. That meeting had not been rescheduled.

• Cedar Rapids Transit suspended bus service until Wednesday.

• Cedar Rapids postponed the City Council meeting that was scheduled for Tuesday.

'Derecho' swept across Iowa, leaving path of destruction

The storm that first stuck Des Moines and Ames is called a derecho — a widespread and fast-moving straight-line windstorm. Unlike a tornado, a derecho can park over an area for some time, whipping it with rain and lashing winds.

This derecho began quickly about 7 a.m. in Nebraska. Only hours later, just after noon, the National Weather Service in the Quad Cities — which also lost its power — tweeted: “Widespread wind damage is being reported all over Cedar Rapids, with 70-100 mph winds! This is a strong and destructive storm, please take cover now if you are in the path of this storm.”

Reports began flooding in to the weather service at 12:15 p.m. in Belle Plaine when 70 mph winds were recorded. Vinton and Fairfield reporting the same speeds. But higher winds gusts were reported elsewhere — including 100 mph in Hiawatha, according to storm reports gathered by the weather service.

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Gusts over 100 mph also knocked over several campers along with the shelter roof at the park in Shellsburg at approximately 12:58 p.m.

Multiple transformers blew in Iowa City and an 80-foot-long tree about a foot in diameter was reported snapped in Coralville. A trained spotter in Toddville reported an outbuilding tossed into a field and a large amount of corn damage in the area.

Clinton radio station KMCN reported roof damage with materials blown into an adjacent field while four to five semi trailers were blown over on Highway 61. Semis blew over in other locations as well.

Earlier in the day, in a harbinger of what was to soon befall Eastern Iowa, sirens blared throughout much of the Des Moines metropolitan area as winds clocked at up to 99 mph and swirling rain raged through Central Iowa, knocking out internet connections for Iowans working in offices and homes and ripping most of the roof off a hockey arena in Urbandale.

Officials with the state Department of Natural Resources reported damage at several state parks, prompting them to warn visitors to avoid the areas or use extreme caution as staff worked to assess the damage and begin cleanup.

Marissa Payne, Rod Boshart, Kat Russell and Grace King of The Gazette, and Gretchen Teske and Caitlin Yamada of the Southeast Iowa Union, contributed.

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