IOWA DERECHO 2020

Derecho is 'largest natural disaster' in Marion history, mayor says

Current library building closed permanently as cleanup effort continues

MARION — Marion Mayor Nicholas AbouAssaly said Monday’s derecho storm was “the largest natural disaster” in the city’s history.

“Every person was impacted,” AbouAssaly said during a news conference Friday morning at Lowe Park. “It’s heartbreaking ... . The impact on people who are already struggling with the pandemic and economic stress is a great concern.”

Among the casualties was the city library, which is closed permanently, because of roof damage.

City Manager Lon Pluckhahn said while some areas in north and west Marion have regained power, 40 percent to 50 percent of residents still were without power as of Friday morning. Estimates line up with Cedar Rapids, and some residents may not have power for at least a few more days, he said.

On Tuesday, Gov. Kim Reynolds toured storm damage in Marion with AbouAssaly, the same day she declared Linn County a disaster area.

“We showed her the impact,” AbouAssly said. “We need assistance and to secure equipment for the help of the cleanup.”

Marion Fire Chief Deb Krebill said that Linn County Emergency Management has been in contact with the fire department and that 25 of the 100 National Guard members coming to Linn County will be in Marion.

The fire department has responded to multiple fires this week. Krebill said two homes had been devastated.

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Residents need to make sure they do not leave candles unattended, she said. She said multiple residents have been transported to the hospital due to carbon monoxide exposure.

“Make sure generators are as far from the home as possible,” she said. “Do not run vehicles in your garage to power cellphones. Park them outside.”

Earlier this week, the City Council issued a declaration banning all open burning, including recreational fires. Krebill said open burning creates embers that can ignite exposed building material or debris.

Police Chief Mike Kitsmiller said city’s curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. will remain in place for the time being. He said the curfew will lift as more power comes back on.

Krebill said the Red Cross is visiting the hardest-hit areas in the county. It will be delivering food and setting up shelters. That information will be available soon, she said.

“The problem is COVID,” she said. “We still have that issue. It is hard to put people into shelters. We don’t have many buildings yet with power, but Red Cross is setting up places today, and we will get that out as soon as possible.”

Debris removal

City crews are moving into neighborhoods after initially focusing on getting roads cleared, Pluckhahn said. He said around 95 percent of Marion roads had been cleared as of Friday morning.

“We’re shifting away from getting streets open to doing storm debris removal,” Pluckhahn said. “There will be several rounds so if we miss you, we will be back.”

Marion has opened a new yard waste location at the 200 block of 44th Street. The site will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

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The city also repurposed the recycling facility as a food waste drop-off site and has waived extra bag tag requirements for garbage.

In addition, the city will resume its normal garbage schedule.

Pluckhahn said the city also will do damage assessment and canvass neighborhoods. There also will be an online application for people to report damage inside or in backyards that assessors may not be able to see.

“This is critical because we aren’t going to be going inside of private properties,” he said.

AbouAssaly said information booths will be set up at City Hall, Hy-Vee and Walmart for those with any questions about city resources.

The city has established a hotline at (319)-743-6300. People wishing to volunteer should call (319) 447-3581.

“Don’t lose hope,” AbouAssaly said. “We are a strong community, and we will get through this ... . We must keep moving forward.”

Comments: (319) 398-8255; gage.miskimen@thegazette.com

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