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Full Power Restoration In Iowa Will Take Days, Officials Warn

Monday's rare derecho storm carved a wide path of destruction through Iowa that will have lasting and far-reaching effects. Iowans should brace for days without power, as communities are faced with repairing or replacing critical power infrastructure, and cleaning up staggering amounts of debris from the dangerous storm, which brought hurricane force winds.

More than 404,000 Iowans woke up in the dark Tuesday morning. As of Tuesday evening, 357,000 utility customers were still without electricity, according to the outage map maintained by poweroutage.us.

Obviously, yesterday was a storm unlike we’ve seen in a very, very long time. Maybe ever,” said Tina Hoffman, MidAmerican Energy spokeswoman. "This is going to be a multi-day effort. We're really still assessing damage."

In some of the hardest-hit communities, power poles were snapped in half like toothpicks, their lines tangled in the branches of massive trees. In some cases, trees were ripped entirely out of the ground, peeling away large patches of earth as they fell, destroying in seconds what it took decades, or even a century to grow. In Cedar Rapids, snow plows were used to clear a path through the tangle of debris.

As of Tuesday evening, some residential streets were still impassable, cars crushed under fallen branches, homes and apartment buildings ensnarled by the mess, despite the best efforts of neighbors and public work crews.

Many stop lights remained out of power or dangled precariously at unnatural angles. Toppled semi-trucks lay along the side of I-80, waiting to be towed away.

In addition to widespread and significant damage and debris in communities across the state, the power grids in Linn, Marshall and Scott counties were particularly hard-hit officials said Tuesday. At its peak, 97 percent of Linn and Marshall counties were without power, Gov. Kim Reynolds said.

"The seriousness of the damage to the power grid could mean that some power outages last for several days," Reynolds said. "Were going to continue providing any support needed to assist the utilities and transmission companies in getting power restored as quickly as possible. We're also working to support bringing in electrical line workers from other parts of the country through the mutual aid compact that they have with our utility providers."

Officials are asking residents to be patient, warning that power restoration will take time, and that rural residents may have even longer of a wait. In the meantime, those already struggling to pay the bills and feed their families may be forced to throw out whatever food was left in their fridge.

Kate Payne was an Iowa City-based Reporter