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Alliant Energy Will Have Power Back To All Customers By Tuesday, MidAmerican Customers Should Have Power This Weekend

Daily Digest

Friday, August 14

3:53 p.m. - Cornell College delays start date of fall semester due to derecho damage

Cornell College in Mt. Vernon is delaying the start of its fall semester by two weeks to allow more time to recover from Monday’s derecho. The new start date is September 7, instead of August 28. The semester will end on December 23. The campus is waiting for utility crews to repair power, internet, and phone service.

A news release from the college says a couple of buildings have roof damage or are missing shingles after the storm. High winds damaged about 100 trees on campus.

3:52 p.m. - Iowans can apply for rent and mortgage assistance through state because of coronavirus and the derecho

Iowans financially affected by the coronavirus pandemic can still apply for rent and mortgage assistance through the state.

The federal government has stopped paying an extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits and Congress recessed without agreeing to extend them. That leaves more Iowans, now facing the pandemic and storm damage, unable to afford their housing.

Gov. Kim Reynolds says Iowans can apply for the state’s eviction and foreclosure prevention program.

Details are at iowahousingrecovery.com. You can also find more information about other government assistance here.

3:18 p.m. - Gov. Reynolds will submit application for presidential disaster declaration after more assessments

Gov. Kim Reynolds says the soonest she can submit an application for a presidential disaster declaration in the wake of the derecho storm is this Monday.

With planes doing aerial assessments Friday and more analysis needed over the weekend, Reynolds says the sheer scale of the impacts has set the timeline.

She says she’s been assured by the president and vice president that Iowa will get the full resources of the federal government.

Reynolds says the declaration would include assistance for homeowners, utilities restoration and debris removal.

Read more about what to do with downed trees in the wake of the storm, and how to apply for disaster assistance.

2:22 p.m. - Alliant Energy and ITC Midwest will have power back to all customers by Tuesday, MidAmerican will restore power this weekend

Alliant Energy and ITC Midwest have committed to restoring power to their customers by the end of Tuesday. MidAmerican told the state their customers will get power back this weekend.

A state agency has also ordered all utilities to update the public twice a day on its efforts to restore electricity to parts of Iowa hit by Monday’s derecho.

As of Friday afternoon, more than 160,000 Iowa customers still didn’t have power, according to poweroutage.us.

12:21 p.m. - Woodbury County issues formal mask recommendation

Siouxland District Health Department’s board of health has approved a formal mask recommendation for Woodbury County that falls short of a mandate.

The recommendation strongly encourages people to wear cloth face masks in “public settings” and when they’re around people outside of their immediate household.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds says local governments can’t mandate masks while her statewide emergency order is in place. Some cities and counties have challenged this by issuing their own orders. The director of Siouxland District Health recently told IPR that he’s keeping an eye on how Linn County’s situation plays out. County supervisors and mayors have issued a proclamation formally calling on Reynolds to allow local governments to make their own mask mandates.

11:49 a.m. - Iowa Asian Alliance member offers census information outside Des Moines grocery store

Iowans around one Des Moines grocery store will have a hard time forgetting about the census and voting. That’s because Amanda Lovan is reminding them right outside every Tuesday and Thursday. Lovan works with Iowa Asian Alliance. She says this is something she can do to help out her community right now.

Lovan has census information in six different languages, voter registration signups and vote by mail applications at her pandemic-friendly booth.

Read more from Kassidy Arena.

10:00 a.m. - 678 new COVID-19 cases, ten new deaths reported Friday

These numbers reflect a 24-hour reporting period.

7:00 a.m. - Gov. Reynolds mobilizes Iowa National Guard to Linn County

Gov. Kim Reynolds is mobilizing the Iowa National Guard to support Linn County’s recovery from Monday’s devastating storm.

One hundred guard engineers are slated to get to work Friday, according to Reynolds’ spokesman.

The activation comes after local officials pleaded for critical support from the state and federal governments as soon as possible, in the wake of what may be the area’s worst natural disaster on record.

Cedar Rapids City Manager Jeff Pomeranz says the damage is more far-reaching than the city’s 2008 flood. The 2008 flood, he said, impacted about 14 square miles of the city. Monday’s storm has affected 75 square miles of the city.

Pomeranz said the city and county have asked Reynolds to seek a federal disaster declaration. She’ll visit Cedar Rapids today.

Read more of this story from Kate Payne.

Thursday, August 13

5:51 p.m. – Linn County says they need state and federal support for storm recovery efforts

Local officials in Linn County say they need critical support from the state and federal governments as soon as possible, in the wake of what may be the area’s worst natural disaster on record.

At the first city press conference since Monday’s storm, Cedar Rapids City Manager Jeff Pomeranz said Thursday the damage is more far-reaching than the city’s 2008 flood.

Pomeranz said the city and county have requested a federal disaster declaration and want the governor to mobilize the Iowa National Guard.

Gov. Kim Reynolds will visit Cedar Rapids Friday. She attended a campaign event with Vice President Mike Pence Thursday in Des Moines.

4:24 p.m. - Some school districts will proceed with all in-person classes despite high COVID-19 positivity rates in county

Almost all school districts in the Iowa counties with the highest coronavirus test positivity rates are planning to start school fully in-person.

The state says it won’t allow districts to move to mostly online learning unless they meet certain criteria, including 15 percent average test positivity in the county.

Humboldt County had 25 percent average test positivity Thursday. But Jim Murray, superintendent of two school districts in the county, says his schools will start fully in-person.

Some superintendents in other counties say they believe they must start school in-person because the state’s other criteria for switching to virtual learning is 10 percent student absenteeism.

Read more from Katarina Sostaric.

4:11 p.m. - Mike Pence visits Iowa, talks to farmers about storm damage

Vice President Mike Pence is making several campaign stops in Iowa Thursday. He's arriving just days after a severe weather event known as a derecho caused widespread damage to Iowa homes, businesses and cropland.

The vice president met privately with a small group of farmers whose crops were hit by the storm before addressing a crowd indoors. Pence promised the Trump administration would work with Iowa leaders to bring the state back.

Read more from Clay Masters.

2:01 p.m. - Linn County sets up shelters for citizens to recharge medical equipment

Power outages in Linn County are still so widespread after Monday’s storm that the county has set up shelters where residents can recharge their medical equipment.

Locations include the city community centers in Hiawatha, Palo and Robins.

Michelle Jensen of CarePro home health service says that going days without electricity, during a pandemic, has been a struggle for her patients who need oxygen. The sheer amount of downed trees, and damage to the power grid itself, has delayed the restoration of electricity in the area.

As of Thursday afternoon 78 percent of Linn County was without power, according to poweroutage.us.

12:14 p.m. - Kamala Harris's nomination could increase civic movement, some say

For some Iowa immigrants, Joe Biden’s choice in running mate could influence their involvement in the voting process. Biden chose California Sen. Kamala Harris to be on the ballot with him in the 2020 presidential election. Harris’ parents are immigrants from Jamaica and India.

Lilián Sánchez interned for Sen. Harris in 2018 and was inducted into the Iowa Latino Hall of Fame last year. She is now a U.S. citizen but came from Mexico at age seven with her mom. Sánchez says Harris’ nomination could increase civic involvement.

According to the American Immigration Council, Iowa’s immigrant community continues to grow every year.

Read more from Kassidy Arena.

10:00 a.m. - 501 new COVID-19 cases, seven new deaths reported

These numbers reflect a 24-hour reporting period.

6:00 a.m. - Most Mid-American customers should get power back today

It’s another long day ahead for crews trying to restore power to people in Iowa who’ve been without it since Monday’s storm. As of 6 a.m. about 255,000 Iowa homes and businesses are without electricity, including 72,000 MidAmerican Energy customers. Company spokesman Geoff Greenwood says most customers should get their power back today. For some others, it could take as long as Saturday.

Greenwood says in some cases, separate crews need to clear trees from power lines before line crews can restore power. Alliant Energy says about 149,000 of its Iowa customers are without power this morning.

Wednesday, August 12

6:00 p.m. - Hy-Vee employee dumps spoiled milk down storm drain

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is working with Hy-Vee to prevent milky water from reaching an Ankeny creek after 800 gallons of spoiled milk were poured down a storm drain.

The DNR says it got reports Wednesday morning that fish were struggling near the surface of a tributary to Fourmile Creek that had turned white.

The DNR’s Ted Petersen says the agency has not seen any dead fish yet, but it’s a possibility. He says based on similar past events, bacteria start to break down dairy products once they enter a stream, and that takes oxygen from the water.

Hy-Vee said in a tweet that an employee made an “uninformed decision” in instructing others how to throw away spoiled milk. The milk had spoiled because of power outages from Monday’s derecho. The company has a contractor working on the cleanup.

4:57 p.m. - NAACP calls on state officials to update voting information for Iowans with felony convictions

The Iowa Nebraska NAACP is calling on state election officials to make information about voting more accessible to Iowans who just regained the right to vote.

Governor Kim Reynolds last week restored voting rights to most Iowans with felony convictions who complete their sentence. But the Iowa secretary of state’s website and voter registration form still incorrectly say they need to apply to the governor to get their rights restored.

Iowa Nebraska NAACP President Betty Andrews says the correct information should be clearly presented to voters.

Andrews says she also wants election officials to ensure newly registered voters receive an absentee ballot request form. A spokesperson for Secretary of State Paul Pate says they’re working on updating the website.

2:58 p.m. - Iowa Association of Electrical Cooperatives encourages safe use of generators

Safety officials are warning Iowans who are using generators for power to make sure they know what they’re doing.

Scott Meinecke with Iowa Association of Electrical Cooperatives says when the power comes back on, if the generator is not connected properly, it can cause an electrical surge that may injure those nearby or the line workers.

Meincke says generators should be used at least 20 feet from the house or outbuilding. They should never be operated inside because carbon monoxide can quickly accumulate. Running them for extended periods of time can also be a fire hazard.

2:26 p.m. - Some eastern Iowa school districts are postponing school start date due to derecho storm damages

Some hard-hit eastern Iowa school districts are moving back their start dates due to Monday’s powerful derecho storm.

The Clinton and North Linn Community School Districts have both delayed their first day of school, to August 19 and 24, respectively.

Other districts across Tama, Marshall, Benton and Linn Counties are still assessing the damage.

In a message posted Wednesday, Benton schools said the power is still out and cell service for the previous two days was “nonexistent."

Many families, teachers and staff are faced with assessing and repairing damage to their own homes before contemplating a return to school.

Read more from Kate Payne.

2:24 p.m. - Latino children are more likely to experience severe symptoms of COVID-19, research shows

As children return to school across the country, research shows Latino children are more likely to experience severe symptoms of COVID-19. That’s why Zoey Knutson’s parents in Hardin County decided to enroll her in an online public school. She says she’s excited to start her online school, but she’s worried her friends will contract the coronavirus.

The seven-year-old was pulled out of in-person class because her parents realized she and her brothers were statistically more at-risk than white students. Knutson’s mom says she wants state leaders to consider the different effects COVID-19 has on different populations.
Read more from Kassidy Arena.

10:00 a.m. - 452 new COVID-19 cases, 12 new deaths reported Wednesday

These numbers reflect a 24-hour reporting period.

9:44 a.m. - Tens of thousands are still without power following Monday's storms

Tens of thousands of customers are still without power in Iowa including the state’s two largest metros Des Moines and Cedar Rapids following Monday’s severe thunderstorms. As of nine this morning, one of Iowa’s largest power companies, MidAmerican Energy, reports 140,000 customers were still without power. Spokesperson Tina Hoffman says they hope to have it all restored by Friday. She says over 200 distribution feeders that supply power to neighborhoods were down. They’d restored half of them yesterday.

Gov. Kim Reynolds has issued an emergency disaster proclamation in 20 counties.

9:27 a.m. - Greenfield encourages state to trust local communities regarding school reopening plans

Democratic senate candidate Theresa Greenfield is encouraging the state to trust local communities when it comes to opening K through 12 schools later this month. Gov. Kim Reynolds says school districts must get permission from the state if they want to do the majority of their learning online. Speaking to reporters between campaign stops in northwest Iowa, Greenfield says everyone wants to have kids back in school, but public health guidelines, like wearing a mask, need to be followed.

Greenfield is challenging Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, in November. Democrats see the seat as a potential pick-up in trying to get majority in the Senate.

Tuesday, August 11

6:16 p.m.- Big Ten Athletic Conference postpones fall sports due to the coronavirus pandemic

The Big Ten Athletic Conference has announced it’s postponing its fall sports season due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The decision is a major blow to student athletes, fans and university budgets, but is meant to save lives.

The decision makes the Big Ten the first major college football conference to punt on its fall season. The cancellation also covers cross country, field hockey, soccer and women’s volleyball.

The conference is still considering whether to reschedule fall play for the spring.

Iowa and Nebraska were reportedly the only members of the Big Ten to vote to go ahead with the fall football season. But in a statement Tuesday, Hawkeye football coach Kirk Ferentz said he’d stand by the decision, though he called it “an extraordinarily disappointing day."

The public health measure will certainly come with short-term economic effects.

According to a USA Today analysis, Iowa football brought in more than $151 million in revenue during the 2018-2019 year, the fourteenth highest in the country.

6:14 p.m. - Ten million acres of agricultural land impacted by derecho

Monday’s widespread storms and heavy winds potentially impacted 10 million acres of the state’s agricultural land as the system moved across the state. The estimate comes from Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture.

Secretary Mike Naig told reporters he’s been visiting some of the damaged sites. He says this next week will reveal more about how crops will fare.

Naig also estimated the derecho impacted, destroyed or severely damaged tens of millions of bushels of commercial grain storage and millions of on-farm grain storage.

Hey says it will take some time to fully understand the financial impact to agriculture.

4:17 p.m. - Sioux City public schools will have students spend two days in the classroom, three days at home at beginning of school year

Students who go to public school in Sioux City will spend two days in the classroom at the start of the school year and three days learning from home.

The Sioux City Community School District’s school board approved a hybrid return to learn plan that splits up students alphabetically and has them learning in person two days a week. Superintendent Paul Gausman says he’s heard a lot of feedback urging him to start with the hybrid model, though he would prefer in-person.

The school board voted to do this model for a minimum of two weeks. After those two weeks, the board will reassess if the district should continue this model.

3:08 p.m. - Gov. Kim Reynolds issues emergency disaster proclamation following storm damages

Gov. Kim Reynolds has issued an emergency disaster proclamation in 13 counties following damages caused by the severe storm on Monday. The state expects to add more counties to that list.

Monday’s storm sent winds as fast as 100 miles per hour across the state, knocking down trees and power lines.

At a press conference Tuesday, Reynolds said in order to get state resources and assistance, counties must ask the state to issue an emergency disaster proclamation for their area.

Reynolds said she anticipates the state will also get federal assistance from FEMA.

As of Tuesday afternoon state officials say an estimated 450,000 households are still without power. Early estimates say 10 million crop acres in the state were damaged by the storm.

Read more from Natalie Krebs.

2:16 p.m. - Some Iowans may not get power restored for days, state officials say

State officials say it could be days before some Iowans get their power restored following Monday’s storm.

Geri Huser is the chair of the Iowa Utilities Board. She said utility crews are working around the clock, but there is no exact time frame for when services will be restored.

Huser said Iowans who cannot reach their utility company should call 211.

As of Tuesday, 450,000 households are still estimated to be without power due to downed power lines from Monday’s storm, which saw winds as fast as 100 miles per hour in some parts of the state.

11:00 a.m. - Watch Gov. Kim Reynolds' Tuesday press conference

10:13 a.m. - Thousands of Iowans without power Tuesday morning

Thousands of power customers in Iowa are still waiting for electricity to be restored this morning. Thousands of power crews from several states are working to reconnect customers after Monday’s derecho caused damage to power lines, trees, and buildings. MidAmerican spokesperson Tina Hoffman says 192,000* customers are without power and might be for a couple of days. She urges people to stay away from downed power lines in case they are still energized.

Hoffman says in a lot of cases, trees have to be cleared from power lines before homes and businesses can be reconnected.

Alliant Energy says 194,000* of its customers are without power Tuesday.

Power Outage Map from MidAmerican.

*Numbers updated at 3:11 p.m.

10:07 a.m. - Sioux City considers possible changes to city fireworks ordinance

The Sioux City Council on Monday pondered possible changes to the city fireworks ordinance.

The council is considering banning fireworks altogether, or limiting the hours and banning certain types of fireworks, or they could continue to allow people to discharge fireworks for a set time period four days each year. They talked about looking into how cities that have bans, like Des Moines, enforce them.

Sioux City resident Rande Giles said she likes that idea. She’s complained to the council about fireworks a couple of times in recent weeks.

The mayor pro tem says they could have a proposal for what to do with the fireworks ordinance in at least two to three weeks.

Read more from Katie Peikes.

10:00 a.m. - 182 new COVID-19 cases, four new deaths reported

These numbers reflect a 24-hour reporting period.

Monday, August 10

5:33 p.m. - Severe storms tear across Iowa, leaving more than 400,000 without power

Severe storm systems swept across Iowa on Monday, downing trees and snapping power lines, tearing roofs off buildings, leveling grain silos and leaving more than 450,000 Iowans without power as of Monday afternoon.

The storm event is considered a derecho, a system made up of a wall of dangerous winds and rapidly moving showers, which can produce damage similar to that of tornadoes.

Communities across Iowa saw hurricane force winds, reaching as high as 100 miles per hour in Cedar Rapids, according to the Weather Service. Winds upwards of 90 mph were also reported, including in Blairstown, Van Horne, Marshalltown, and Des Moines.

Read more from Kate Payne.

2:40 p.m. - Incarcerated people at Fort Dodge prison back to work despite coronavirus concerns

Incarcerated people at the state prison in Fort Dodge are back working at the on-site manufacturing facility, despite coronavirus concerns.

Only inmates who have tested positive and since recovered are returning to work, equipped with PPE.

An Iowa Department of Corrections spokesman expressed confidence in the plan, saying recovered inmates “presumably cannot get infected again or infect others."

That’s concerning to infectious disease doctor Megan Srinivas, who says there is no scientific consensus around immunity to COVID-19.

According to a New York Times analysis, Webster County is a hot spot, with one of the highest case rates in the state over the past week.

10:00 a.m. - 268 new COVID-19 cases, one new death reported

These numbers reflect a 24-hour reporting period.

9:59 a.m. - Sioux City to reevaluate fireworks code

The Sioux City Council will hear a presentation Monday on some suggested changes to the city’s fireworks code.

The current code allows people to set off fireworks on private property during limited hours on four days each year, but some residents have asked the council for a full ban. City officials suggest the council look at a ban, or further limit hours people can discharge fireworks and the types they can discharge, or leave things as they are.

Mayor Pro Tem Dan Moore says he’s wrestling with how enforcement would work if the city were to completely or partially ban fireworks.

A lieutenant from the Sioux City Police Department told IPR in July that enforcing the current ordinance is a challenge.

No action will be taken on the ordinance Monday.

9:57 a.m. - Iowa's public universities prepare for students to return

As Iowa State University, the University of Iowa and University Northern Iowa prepare to reopen this month, they say COVID-19 tests will be available to students with symptoms or known exposure, but some are concerned this isn’t enough to safely reopen.

University of Iowa Senior Jade Miller says she’s worried about being on campus because a lot of young people could be asymptomatic and not know they’re spreading the virus.

In addition to testing students showing symptoms, ISU will also test students moving into on campus housing.

All three schools say they’re putting many measures in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This includes modifying classrooms and public spaces for social distancing and requiring facial coverings on campus.

Read more from Natalie Krebs.

Sunday, August 9

620 new COVID-19 cases, five more deaths reported Sunday

These numbers reflect a 24-hour reporting period. On Saturday, 383 new cases were reported along with 13 more deaths.