WEST DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — President Donald Trump has signed an emergency declaration that will supply federal money to help Iowa recover from an unusual wind storm that struck a week ago.
“I’ve just approved an emergency declaration for Iowa, who had an incredible windstorm like probably they’ve never seen before," Trump said Monday before he left Washington for a campaign trip to Minnesota and Wisconsin. “Really did a lot of damage."
Trump is planning to visit Iowa on Tuesday, Gov. Kim Reynolds said during a news conference, but she provided no details.
Reynolds filed an expedited presidential major disaster declaration on Sunday seeking $3.99 billion.
A derecho with hurricane-force wind gusts exceeding 100 mph destroyed or extensively damaged 8,200 homes and 13 million acres (5.3 million hectares) of corn, about a third of the state’s crop land, she said. The Aug. 10 storm killed at least three people in the state.
More than a half million people lost power in the storm, and utility companies said about 65,000 people remained without electricity Monday afternoon.
The federal funds Iowa requested would cover $3.78 billion in agriculture losses, $100 million for private utilities, $82 million for homes and $45 million for public assistance.
Reynolds and the federal government has come under criticism for not acting quickly or doing enough.
Former Democratic Lt. Governor Patty Judge, who was Iowa’s homeland security adviser during the massive floods in 2008 that upended many of the same communities hit by the derecho, criticized Vice President Mike Pence for visiting Iowa on Thursday for a campaign stop but not visiting damaged farms or cities.
She also noted Trump’s comments that he might visit.
“Iowans in trouble should be a top priority, not a veiled PR stunt,” she said. “We need leaders who care and who will act immediately when needed, not a week later when they realize their numbers need a boost.”
Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand, also a Democrat, spent 48 hours in Cedar Rapids from Friday to Sunday with a chainsaw helping to clear trees from a home, streets, sidewalks and driveways.
He said Reynolds could have moved much quicker by sending an abbreviated request to FEMA intended “for those catastrophes of unusual severity and magnitude when field damage assessments are not necessary to determine the requirement for supplemental federal assistance.” The process was used in 2008 when a tornado struck Parkersburg, Iowa, destroying hundreds of homes. President George W. Bush approved help within 24 hours.
“The level of assistance that is needed over there, it just punches you in the face,” he said.
Reynolds said she had sought money from a much more substantive program that offers more options for federal aid.
“We set a record getting it done,” she said. ’Let’s think about what we are able to do by heroic efforts by some tremendous state employees that are working around the clock to get the resources to Iowans. We have it now and let’s move forward.”