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‘We feel your pain': Cedar Rapids city leaders ask for more help in derecho response

(Source: George C. Harris)
(Source: George C. Harris)(George C. Harris (CUSTOM_CREDIT) | KCRG)
Published: Aug. 14, 2020 at 3:48 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - “We do feel your pain” was the common message as Cedar Rapids city leaders admitted the need for more help with the response to Monday’s derecho and urged a federal disaster declaration.

“We share the hurt, the heartache, the frustration and, frankly, the anger that many citizens have expressed to us as we’ve walked through our devastated neighborhoods,” City Council Member Tyler Olson read from prepared remarks. “We share your anger that our community calls for help have taken too long to be heard.”

The comments followed the first visit from Governor Kim Reynolds to Cedar Rapids since the derecho earlier Friday (she visited Marion on Tuesday) and the deployment of 100 National Guard engineers on Friday, four days after the storm hit. Governor Reynolds said that deployment did not happen earlier as local officials had not identified the need and requested help earlier.

City Manager Jeff Pomeranz thanked Governor Reynolds and state leaders for the help of the Guard and said those guard soldiers will assist Alliant Energy crews in clearing debris to help restore power, adding they will not help with law enforcement at this time.

Governor Reynolds also said a federal disaster declaration was expected quickly. She said crews are gathering the data needed to submit a request but that President Trump and Vice President Pence have assured her that declaration would come. Olson emphasized the need for that federal aid, noting the derecho is worse than the 2008 floods.

“Like most Cedar Rapidians, I thought the Floods of 2008 would be the defining moment for this community in my lifetime,” Olson said. “The storm on Monday changed that.”

City of Cedar Rapids Presser

WATCH LIVE: City officials are holding a news conference on storm recovery efforts in Cedar Rapids and Linn County

Posted by KCRG-TV9 on Friday, August 14, 2020

POWER UPDATES

Pomeranz also announced power was restored to the city’s water pollution control facility.

Alliant Energy said it plans to have power restored to most of the city by Tuesday. Joel Schmidt with Alliant Energy says crews have to replace 2500 downed poles, an 8-month job that will get done in a week. Some homes may need electricians to repair meters where power comes into the home.

MidAmerican Energy spokesperson said its crews must await electrical repairs to be able to fully restore gas. It received more than 350 emergency calls after the storm. Right now, crews are clearing debris to be able to do repair work.

HOUSING DAMAGE

Cedar Rapids Fire Chief Greg Smith said firefighters did a sweep in the aftermath of the storm and identified more than 800 properties with a collapse or threat of collapse that posed a risk to anyone living in it. Inspectors will review those properties to assess livability.

DEBRIS

The city is setting up a dump site for tree debris at the corner of F Avenue and 1st Street NW starting tomorrow from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM - this is for tree debris only. City crews are clearing debris placed curbside and ask that people cut limbs to a manageable size and keep piles away from storm drains and fire hydrants.

ROADS

City crews are also working to fully clear streets of debris, even 4 days after the storm. Traffic signals remain a work in progress. About 80 of the city’s 190 damaged traffic signals have now had power restored. Leaders say drivers should treat broken traffic signals or intersections with no stop signs as a 4-way stop sign until those signals or signs can be replaced.

VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES

Kristen Roberts with the United Way says it has seen an outpouring of volunteers and is now seeing national groups come in to visit. There are three ways to volunteer:

1.) Call 224-406-1366

2.) Online: click here.

3.) In-Person at Linn County Emergency Management office at 6301 Kirkwood Blvd S.W.

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