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Reynolds Defends State Response To Storm As Power Outages Persist

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during a news conference, Friday, Aug. 14, 2020, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The storm that struck Monday morning left tens of thousands of residents without power as of Friday morning.
Charlie Neibergall
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during a news conference in Cedar Rapids on Friday. The storm that struck Monday morning left tens of thousands of residents without power as of Friday morning.

Gov. Kim Reynolds is defending the state’s response to Monday’s massive and destructive derecho storm, even as more than 158,000 Iowans are still without power, and some struggle to access food and critical medical supplies.

“We're moving forward, we're coordinating efforts, we're working with the local emergency managers and working with city officials and the mayor,” Reynolds said. “They’re on the ground. They need to let us know how we can supplement and help them with the work that they’re doing and that’s how we can efficiently and effectively serve citizens.”

At a press conference with city, county and state officials in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Reynolds said the soonest she can submit an application for a presidential disaster declaration is this Monday.

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

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.

But, she says she’s been assured by the President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence that Iowa will get the full resources of the federal government.

“They stand ready to do whatever we need to do. So as soon as I get that paperwork done, I’ll be calling them to let them know it’s on the way, with every expectation that we will get that signed off on. So if we meet the criteria, my expectation is to get that turnaround and that approval, I’m hoping within the day,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds was with Pence in Des Moines on Thursday at a “Farmers and Ranchers for Trump” campaign event, as local officials were calling for immediate action to deploy critical state and federal resources.

Larger Iowa National Guard mobilization is possible

So far, Reynolds has dispatched 100 Iowa National Guard engineers to work in Linn County, after local officials pleaded for help. That announcement came out Thursday night, with service members beginning their work on the ground Friday.

Adjutant General of the Iowa National Guard Ben Corell said he is sensitive to the sentiment among some eastern Iowa residents that the activation didn’t happen soon enough.

“Yesterday afternoon we started receiving inquiries from Linn County about obtaining support from the Iowa National Guard. Some even wondered, ‘where is the Iowa National Guard?’” he said. “Well, the Iowa National Guard is here. We've come. We're ready to get to work.”

Touring storm damage in Cedar Rapids with Reynolds and area officials Friday, Corell said he hasn’t seen destruction like this since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Yet he says more assessments are needed before additional guard members would be mobilized.

“I don’t want to send 500 soldiers and airmen into Linn County if we don’t need 500 soldiers and airmen. These are citizen soldiers. They’ve got other jobs. They live in all parts of the state,” he said. “And so when we need them, we really need them. But we’ve got to validate that need.”

Corell says the current mobilization is focused on clearing debris and restoring electricity, and also have medical, communications and search and rescue capabilities.

Utilities commit to restoring power in days, not weeks

Reynolds announced that Alliant Energy and ITC Midwest have committed to restoring power to their customers by the end of the day Tuesday August 18th.

That’s a marked change after Alliant spokesman Mike Wagner said Thursday it would take five to seven days to “substantially restore electricity to most of Cedar Rapids."

Some residents have previously told IPR they’re bracing for an additional “two to three weeks” without power, based on the extensive damage to electrical infrastructure.

“I think with an electrical company, our backyard alone would take two days maybe to just get the trees removed and get the power lines back up. And it’s me and then everyone else in my neighborhood,” Cedar Rapids resident Kaiser Kedley-Bergmann told IPR on Thursday morning.

Meanwhile MidAmerican Energy Company told the state its customers will get power back this weekend.

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

“The order directs preparation and filing of granular data to customers utilizing social media, press releases and other communication resources to convey repowering timelines to community leaders, residents and businesses across the state,” said Geri Huser, chair of the Iowa Utilities Board.

As of Friday evening, some 158,000 Iowa customers still didn’t have power, according to

Additionally, the City of Cedar Rapids’ Northwest Water Treatment Plant was still operating off of generator power of Friday afternoon, according to a city spokesman.

In the meantime, residents have told IPRthey’re running low on food and critical medical supplies like oxygen, insulin and catheters.

On Thursday afternoon at a food distribution event, Cedar Rapids resident Cheryl Barnes told IPR she has diabetes but hasn't had an insulin shot in two days, and has been living off bread.

“I know my blood sugar has been high, so I have to be extremely careful. And it don’t help when you’re eating bread because that’s got a lot of carbs in it,” Barnes said. “But I don’t have anything that doesn’t have carbs in it to eat.”

Daytime Medical Shelters:

Linn County has opened weekday medical shelters for residents who need a day shelter or to charge medical equipment. Medical supplies such as oxygen and insulin are not available; residents are advised to get more supplies form their providers.

Anderson Public Library - Center Point Community Room

Hours of Operation: Monday – Friday 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Address: 720 Main St Center Point, IA 52213
Special Instructions: Social distancing – only outlets with red-covered plates have power

    City of Hiawatha Community Center

    Hours of Operation: Monday – Friday 7:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.
    Address: 101 Emmons St Hiawatha, IA 52233

    City of Palo Community Center -

    Closed as of Wednesday, Aug. 19.

    Hours of Operation: Monday – Friday 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.
    Address: 2800 Hollenbeck Rd Palo, IA 52324

    City of Robins Community Center

    Hours of Operation: Monday – Friday 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.
    Address: 265 S. 2nd Street Robins, IA 52328

    City of Springville City Hall

    Hours of Operation: Monday – Friday 7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.
    Address: 304 Broadway Street Springville, IA 52336

    Coggon Old Fire Station

    Hours of Operation: Monday – Friday 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.
    Address: 112 2nd St South Coggon, Iowa 52218
    Special Instructions: No Air Conditioning

    Overnight shelters:

    Linn County and the American Red Cross have opened an overnight congregate shelter at the Veterans Memorial Building in Cedar Rapids, with doors opening Friday August 14 at 8 p.m. Red Cross volunteers will be on hand to assist, and social distancing protocols have been put in place.

    Linn County / Red Cross Shelter

    Address: Veterans Memorial Building, 50 2nd Avenue Bridge Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401

    Kate Payne was an Iowa City-based Reporter
    Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter