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President Trump Partly Approves Iowa's Disaster Declaration One Week After Derecho

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Kate Payne
/
IPR
Last Monday's derecho storm has caused significant and widespread damage across the state, downing trees and power lines, and crushing some homes and cars.

President Trump partly approved Iowa’s request Monday for federal disaster declaration one week after a derecho devastated communities across the state, and as thousands of Iowans are dealing with severe damage to their homes and are still without electricity.

“I just approved an emergency declaration for Iowa, who had an incredible windstorm like probably they’ve never seen before,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “It really did a lot of damage.”

He plans to visit Cedar Rapids Tuesday.

On Sunday, Gov. Kim Reynolds formally requested nearly $4 billion dollars in disaster aid, including almost $3.8 billion to cover the loss of corn and soybeans.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates 14 million acres of insured crops were in the storm’s path. According to the disaster aid request, the derecho “had the greatest impact” on 3.57 million acres of corn and 2.5 million acres of soybeans in 36 counties.

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National Weather Service
Widespread, destructive straight line winds blew across central Iowa during the day last Monday. The highest official wind gusts measured was 99 mph at the Marshalltown Airport with an unofficial wind gust of 106 mph at Le Grand (east of Marshalltown).

The disaster aid request also includes $100 million for private utilities, nearly $83 million for homes with major damage, and more than $45 million for public infrastructure damage and debris removal.

The state estimated 8,273 residential structures were destroyed or had major damage.

Some Iowans have criticized the state’s response to the derecho as some residents couldn’t access food, safe housing or medical supplies for days. More than 60,000 Iowans still didn’t have electricity as of Monday afternoon.

Iowa Watch reports the state did not immediately request disaster assistance as it did after a tornado in 2008, when federal help was approved within 24 hours.

Reynolds defended the timing of the state's response to the derecho at a news conference Monday, saying her request was a more thorough assessment than what was submitted in 2008.

"Let's think about what we were able to do by heroic efforts by some of the tremendous state employees that are working around the clock to get the resources to Iowans," Reynolds said. "We have it now. Let's move forward and get the power back on."

The Federal Emergency Management Agency clarified Monday afternoon that public assistance—for emergency work and repairing facilities—was approved for 16 counties: Benton, Boone, Cedar, Clinton, Dallas, Jasper, Johnson, Jones, Linn, Marshall, Muscatine, Polk, Poweshiek, Scott, Story and Tama counties.

Assistance for individuals and households was "under review," according to a FEMA document. Reynolds requested individual assistance for 27 counties: Audubon, Benton, Boone, Cass, Cedar, Clarke, Clinton, Dallas, Greene, Grundy, Guthrie, Hardin, Iowa, Jackson, Jasper, Johnson, Jones, Linn, Madison, Marshall, Muscatine, Polk, Poweshiek, Scott, Story, Tama and Washington.

The head of FEMA was in Iowa Monday to meet with Reynolds and tour derecho damage.

Vice President Mike Pence visited Iowa last week for campaign events but did not tour storm damage. He met with some farmers and looked at photos of flattened crops.

This post was updated August 17, 2020, at 6:49 p.m. It was corrected to reflect the partial approval of Iowa's disaster aid request. A previous version said assistance was approved for 27 counties.