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Fewer Than 2,000 Iowans Still Without Power Monday Morning

Amanda Colbert (Groundsource response) 13.jpeg
Amanda Colbert
Two weeks after the derecho hit, just under two thousand Iowans were still without power.

Some 1,900 Iowans remain without power as of 7 am Monday according to poweroutage.us, the unlucky few still waiting through the August heat.

In the immediate aftermath of the powerful derecho storm that hit two weeks ago Monday, more than half a million Iowans were left in the dark.

That fewer than 2,000 Iowans still lack electricity represents a massive effort since the storm to clear staggering amounts of tree debris, to replace power poles that were snapped like toothpicks in the hurricane-force winds, and to restring countless power lines that hung dangerously across roads and driveways.

Utility crews came from across the U.S. and Canada to help restore the grid in eastern Iowa.

Cedar Rapids residents Norma Hull and her husband Tim got their power back on Saturday, making them among the last in the city to be restored.

They live in the hard-hit Edgewood Forest Mobile Home Park on the northwest side of the city where many trailers were left crushed and unlivable by the storm.

Hull says she and her mother rode out the storm in her car, caught off-guard by what she assumed was a tornado while on the way to a pre-scheduled medical appointment. She says the intervening days have been difficult.

“It was just crazy. Horrible, crazy,” she said. “It happened Monday. Tuesday afternoon I couldn’t take it anymore here. It was just…nothing was being done. Trees were still around.”

Hull says she was able to temporarily leave the city to stay with her son in Maquoketa, desperate to escape the damage that she says was so extensive residents initially couldn’t get out of the trailer park.

The first thing she did when the power came back was to run a bath.

“First thing I did yesterday after cleanup, was I took a nice hot bath. And I was able to soak. That was all I wanted, just to clean up,” she said.

Many Iowans rely on power for a sense of stability, for a source of communication, for a way to feed themselves, and for a means to preserve lifesaving medical supplies like insulin.

Iowans already struggling through the depths of a pandemic-fueled recession lost everything in their fridges and freezers. Many families weren't sure how or what they would eat day to day, relying on donations from neighbors, disaster relief groups and local governments.

In the wake of the storm, power outages were so widespread and persistent that city and county officials opened shelters specifically for residents to charge their medical devices.

Alliant Energy Vice President Joel Schmidt has warned that many of those still without power have not been restored because extensive damage to their homes makes it unsafe to do so.

“We continue to work day and night to quickly and safely make power available to each and every home. Of course I realized this is a little comfort to the customers who still do not have power available to them,” Schmidt said on Thursday. “Some of these customers live in homes and businesses or operate farms, and their property has sustained such damage it is unsafe to restore power at this time.”

Another barrier to power restoration for some is the responsibility and cost of hiring an electrician to replace damaged weatherheads or service cables on their homes before utility companies can hook them back up.

Alliant spokeswoman Cindy Tomlinson says the company is working with the United Way of East Central Iowa, HACAP, Mid-Iowa Community Action and Community Action of Eastern Iowa on a dedicated fund to help residents pay these costs. More information on the program "Project ReConnect" is expected this week.