Governor Reynolds defends her response to derecho destruction

Senator Joni Ernst, joined by Governor Kim Reynolds and the Adjutant general of the Iowa National Guard, Ben Corell, met with officials from Linn County and the city of Cedar Rapids at the Cedar Rapids Central Fire Station. Photo courtesy of Senator Erns
Senator Joni Ernst, joined by Governor Kim Reynolds and the Adjutant General of the Iowa National Guard, Ben Corell, met with officials from Linn County and the city of Cedar Rapids at the Cedar Rapids Central Fire Station.Photo courtesy of Senator Ernst

Tens of thousands of Iowans still without electrictiy.

Posted: Aug 14, 2020 11:57 AM
Updated: Aug 14, 2020 3:16 PM

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 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.”

Governor Reynolds spoke to the media Friday at the Cedar Rapids Fire Department. To view that press conference, click here.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

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Confirmed Cases: 96734

Reported Deaths: 2060
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin27177931
Ramsey10985320
Dakota7585126
Anoka6182135
Stearns404524
Washington384155
Scott260333
Olmsted247328
Nobles197516
Blue Earth17146
Wright16647
St. Louis161841
Carver14297
Clay141140
Rice13438
Mower13365
Sherburne116114
Kandiyohi10262
Winona90618
Lyon7134
Waseca6898
Benton5583
Steele5532
Freeborn5444
Nicollet54217
Crow Wing53318
Watonwan5304
Chisago5071
Todd5022
McLeod4942
Le Sueur4724
Otter Tail4454
Beltrami4405
Martin42610
Goodhue3769
Itasca33914
Pine3360
Douglas3262
Polk3164
Isanti3071
Becker2802
Carlton2711
Morrison2642
Dodge2480
Pipestone23010
Cottonwood2270
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Wabasha2010
Brown1952
Sibley1953
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Murray1702
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Renville1568
Jackson1501
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Houston1270
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Roseau1240
Fillmore1230
Koochiching1233
Pennington1201
Lincoln1150
Hubbard1111
Stevens1051
Pope980
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Wilkin663
Grant624
Lac qui Parle601
Lake590
Marshall531
Norman530
Mahnomen481
Red Lake451
Traverse310
Clearwater280
Lake of the Woods231
Kittson120
Cook60

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 86239

Reported Deaths: 1307
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk15962262
Woodbury550964
Johnson514727
Black Hawk450090
Linn4078112
Story345317
Dubuque328341
Scott302028
Dallas279838
Pottawattamie214139
Buena Vista199212
Marshall179034
Sioux16463
Wapello133457
Webster127214
Plymouth115521
Clinton112421
Muscatine111155
Crawford10915
Cerro Gordo105821
Warren9656
Jasper84532
Des Moines7978
Marion7637
Henry7464
Tama73231
Carroll6745
Lee6397
Wright5921
Dickinson5286
Boone5118
Bremer4957
Washington46611
Louisa42915
Delaware4103
Mahaska41019
Floyd3523
Franklin35018
Jackson3503
Winneshiek3396
Lyon3324
Clay3284
Hamilton3273
Benton3241
Winnebago31513
Hardin3041
Poweshiek3048
Buchanan2851
Jones2763
Kossuth2740
Butler2712
Shelby2671
Clarke2663
Emmet26510
Allamakee2646
Clayton2613
Chickasaw2570
Sac2570
Cherokee2512
Cedar2501
Guthrie2456
Harrison2413
Fayette2272
Grundy2233
Madison2232
Iowa2131
Palo Alto2030
Mitchell1910
Howard1906
Humboldt1903
Hancock1882
Calhoun1853
Mills1811
Page1700
Cass1692
Osceola1680
Pocahontas1632
Monroe15911
Monona1571
Lucas1566
Appanoose1393
Jefferson1391
Union1373
Taylor1311
Davis1274
Fremont1220
Ida1221
Van Buren1141
Keokuk1091
Worth1080
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