NATIONAL NEWS

Iowa Governor Defends Storm Response As Residents Struggle

Aug 14, 2020, 3:11 PM
LUTHER, IA - AUGUST 11: In this aerial image from a drone, damaged grain bins are shown at the Hear...
LUTHER, IA - AUGUST 11: In this aerial image from a drone, damaged grain bins are shown at the Heartland Co-Op grain elevator on August 11, 2020 in Luther, Iowa. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said early estimates indicate 10 million acres, nearly a 1/3 of the states land used for crops, were damaged when a powerful storm battered the region a day earlier. (Photo by Daniel Acker/Getty Images)
(Photo by Daniel Acker/Getty Images)

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds pushed back Friday against criticism that she has been slow to respond to a wind storm that devastated the state and promised more help soon for tens of thousands of residents struggling through their fifth day without electricity.

Reynolds said 100 members of the Iowa National Guard arrived in hard-hit Cedar Rapids on Friday to help clear tree debris that is blocking many downed power lines.

She said she has commitments from the state’s largest utilities that customers in Cedar Rapids and other areas should have their power restored by Tuesday, if not sooner. Many others, including those in the Des Moines area, should be back online this weekend, she said.

Reynolds, a Republican, said she would submit the state’s request for a federal disaster declaration Monday after completing mandatory damage assessments. She said President Donald Trump has promised to act swiftly to provide federal resources once that’s approved.

The storm known as a derecho swept through Iowa on Monday with winds of up to 100 mph (160 kph), downing trees and power lines, destroying a third or more of the state’s corn fields, and damaging homes and businesses. At least three people in Iowa and one in Indiana were killed.

Cedar Rapids, the state’s second-largest city, has been hardest hit, with officials calling the devastation more widespread than a historic 2008 flood that wiped out downtown neighborhoods.

About 65,000 customers in the Cedar Rapids area remained without power, and 100,000 more across the state. Alliant Energy said it anticipates replacing 2,500 damaged poles in a week — work that would normally take eight months.

Reynolds said the Iowa National Guard was not sent to Cedar Rapids earlier because the state did not receive a request for help from local officials until Thursday.

Iowa National Guard Adjutant General Benjamin Corell acknowledged that many residents had been asking about its absence this week but said the guard does not send in soldiers until its mission is clear. He said the guard’s focus was to coordinate with utilities to clear trees and restore power.

“We’re here. We’re ready to get going,” he said Friday. “We’re going to get this mess cleaned up.”

Several residents and a Democratic congresswoman who represents the area had criticized Reynolds for not moving faster.

Particularly blistering was a statement issued by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which represents workers at major Cedar Rapids food manufacturing factories and said its members were “living in a war zone.”

“Too many Iowans are suffering and it is not acceptable that they are living without electricity, many are unable to go work, downed trees block roads for families to get badly needed essential supplies,” said union President Stuart Appelbaum. “It’s horrific.”

Reynolds said she did take action, including by issuing a state disaster declaration that provides some grants to low-income residents. She toured the area and spoke with Trump on Tuesday and Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday during his campaign visit to Iowa.

“Everybody is doing the best they can,” Reynolds said at a news conference at a Cedar Rapids fire station.

Several residents said they were struggling to meet basic needs while already reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.

Ella Shears, 53, said the storm flooded her kitchen and bathroom and knocked out her power. She said she had to throw out $200 worth of food that was spoiled and doesn’t know when her next meal will come.

Shears said she cannot charge her cellphone, leaving her no way to communicate. Her third-floor apartment is hot, so she sits outside in the shade from trees that have not been knocked down.

Shears said the Wendy’s restaurant where she is a cashier has been closed. She is running out of prescription drugs she takes for heart problems, and worries about how she’ll get them refilled.

“It’s just sad. I never thought I would see this,” she said. “It’s a struggle.”

Eric Fish, 33, said he has been unable to cook a hot meal, eating peanut butter sandwiches for the last three days. He said the only help he’s received was from a city worker who helped knock down a big tree branch outside his home.

“No power for almost a week. Massive debris like everybody else. No help. We’re losing every bit of our food,” he said Friday.

Cecil Gott, 54, said his home suffered damage to windows, its roof and walls. He drove out of town to buy a chain saw that he has been using to help clear tree debris from his neighborhood.

“We really do need the Iowa National Guard out here,” he said. “If more people would come out to help, we would get our power back on sooner.”

Jeffrey Frajman, 66, said he and his neighbors in a low-income apartment complex are desperate for power to come back and for roads to be cleared.

“People are getting angry,” he said. “We need some action and we need it now.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

Plane collision at Dallas Air Show...
JAMIE STENGLE and JAKE BLEIBERG Associated Press

Report: No altitude advice before Dallas air show crash

A preliminary report from federal officials on a deadly midair collision at a Dallas air show says no guidance was given on altitudes before a World War II-era fighter plane crashed into a bomber.
1 day ago
emergency lights...
KEN RITTER Associated Press

Ex-con gets at least 18 years in dismembered body case in Vegas

An ex-convict who led police on a chase around Las Vegas before officers found the severed head and dismembered body of his friend in a stolen vehicle he was driving was sentenced Thursday to at least 18 years in prison.
1 day ago
PHOENIX, ARIZONA - NOVEMBER 11: Election workers open mail in ballots at the Maricopa County Tabula...
JONATHAN J. COOPER Associated Press

Arizona county certifies election after judge’s order

A rural Arizona county certified its midterm election results on Thursday, following the orders of a judge who ruled that Republican supervisors broke the law when they refused to sign off on the vote count by this week's deadline.
1 day ago
Lindsay Lohan thinks you should try Pilk.
(Pepsi)...
Danielle Wiener-Bronner, CNN Business

Pepsi wants you to drink soda mixed with milk this holiday season

Pepsi launched a campaign Thursday encouraging customers to try the combination of milk and pepsi for a holiday concoction.
1 day ago
People at vigil for four students killed in Idaho...
REBECCA BOONE, Associated Press

Victims’ families urge love, kindness as Idaho campus mourns

As hundreds of students mourned together inside the University of Idaho’s stadium Wednesday night, family members of four slain classmates urged them to raise their eyes from grief and focus on love and the future.
1 day ago
Mauna Loa spewing lava on Tuesday. (Courtesy: Paradise Helicopters via )...
Holly Yan and Aya Elamroussi, CNN

Lava spilling toward key Hawaiian highway, but the gov says it’s safe to visit the Big Island

The world's largest active volcano is shooting fountains of lava more than 100 feet high and sending a river of molten rock down toward the main highway of Hawaii's Big Island.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 reasons you may want to consider apartment life over owning a home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Take this quiz before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t let a ransomware attack get you down | Protect your workplace today with cyber insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Iowa Governor Defends Storm Response As Residents Struggle