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22,000 tons of derecho debris removed so far in Cedar Rapids

General updates to the Cedar Rapids response to the derecho
Published: Aug. 19, 2020 at 3:59 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Cedar Rapids city crews have cleared more than 22,000 tons of debris from last week’s derecho with many more tons to clear and thousands still without power.

City Manager Jeff Pomeranz highlighted city coordinated efforts to open shelters, provide meals and necessities as city crews work to clear debris and repair damage across the city during a news conference Wednesday afternoon. Mayor Brad Hart also commended and thanked city staff who he says are working every minute of daylight, 7-days a week on storm recovery efforts.

“Of course we’ll continue to advocate for more federal support for the city and individuals because we’ve had expenses no one could ever prepare for,” Mayor Hart said.

Here is the full video with highlights below:

WATCH LIVE: Cedar Rapids media briefing

The City of Cedar Rapids provides an update on storm recovery efforts

Posted by KCRG-TV9 on Wednesday, August 19, 2020

FEMA

Mayor Hart said he is confident individual assistance will be coming from FEMA. President Trump approved a disaster declaration that brought in federal support for debris removal and public efforts but it did not include help for individuals. Mayor Hart brought up the lack of a individual help during a visit by President Trump Tuesday. The President said he would get that done and Mayor Hart says he has no reason to doubt that will happen but did not have a timeline of when.

Pomeranz says the city has developed a close relationship with FEMA since the 2008 flood and called them “critical partners”.

RED CROSS SHELTERS

Peter Teahan said the Palo Community Shelter has now closed but the Red Cross Shelter at Veterans Memorial Building in Cedar Rapids remains open. Teahan says neither shelter came close to capacity. Last night he said about 54 residents stayed at the shelter with room for about 100 more.

Teahen said if a bigger need arises, the Red Cross may look to open more space. He said COVID-19 makes congregate shelters undesirable and many victims have been placed in a hotel instead of the community shelters.

POWER UPDATES:

Alliant Energy said the majority of customers in the state and in Linn County now have power but 23% of Linn County, about 22,000 customers are still cut off.

Joel Schmidt, Vice President of Alliant Energy, said crews from across the country are in the field to get the work done. In total, those workers have replaced 3,000 poles and more than 1,000 miles of wire in addition to clearing tons of debris from power lines.

“We will not rest until all customers have power available,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt also thanked customers for patience and community members for offering crews water or other support, including cheering them on as they arrive in an area.

TELECOMMUNICATIONS:

Corey Bowman with Mediacom says many of its fiber lines have been restored but crews are still repairing several service lines. Bowman says Mediacom crews are closely following Alliant crews to reattach their lines to power poles and restore service quickly after power is back.

He says there are several reasons some people might not have internet when the power comes back. That could include damage to the network in your area, to the connection at your home or at a drop to your home. Bowman says if you notice damage to poles outside your home to contact Mediacom to let them know.

DEBRIS AND STREETS

Jen Winter with the city’s public works department emphasized the long road in clearing debris. She said crews are working slowly through neighborhoods but have only done the first pass for pick up on 12% of roads so far. The city plans to publish a map updated daily to show where debris pickup has happened.

As a reminder, the city is asking to place tree debris in piles in the right of way free of any other garbage or debris. There are no size limits but crews ask that limbs are cut down to a manageable size to help with debris removal.

151 of 191 of the city’s traffic signals are back on with the expectation all are back on by end of the week. City crews are replacing damaged street signs, focusing on main roads first and have already repaired or replaced more than 1,000 stop signs.

PARKS AND REC

Scott Hock stressed that some city trees may still be a danger to fall from loose limbs or damage. Hock said a certified arborist can assess a tree’s health

Park staff are assessing reopening city parks damaged from the storm, focusing first on clearing and reopening bike and commuter trails.

UTILITIES

Steve Hershner says the city has collected and removed tons of spoiled food waste from across the city. Recycling collection will restart next week and Yardy carts will restart the following week. Collection is only available on streets, not alleys.

POLICE

Police are enforcing a citywide curfew that remains in effect from midnight to 6:00 AM.

Police Chief Wayne Jerman warned of an increase in car crashes since the derecho, particularly with stop signs and traffic signals down and debris piles limiting sightlines of drivers.

Chief Jerman also warned of scammers looking to prey on storm victims, noting they have not had any reports yet. He said contractors doing work on buildings, they are required to be licensed in Iowa with the Secretary of State. The Building Services Department has a phone line to verify a licensed contract: 319-286-5929.

Chief Jerman recommended getting multiple bids on a job, using local contractors, avoid upfront payments and to get estimates in writing in advance.

People can report scams or price gouging to the Iowa Attorney General at IowaAttorneyGeneral.gov or by calling 1-888-777-4590.

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT

Jennifer Pratt, Community Development Director, said community resource centers are a huge resource for storm victims. Those sites now also include flyers with other locations to get help and are available in multiple languages. These are expected to be open until at least August 30th.

Pratt said they are working to keep COVID-19 safety practices in place but noted the critical needs of the disaster sometimes override those measures.

MENTAL HEALTH

Kristin Roberts with the United Way highlighted LAP-AID - Linn Area Partners Active in Disaster - which has been leading efforts to coordinate community responses and fill needs with a wide array of social service agencies and nonprofits.

Roberts also stressed mental health concerns are growing in the disaster and emphasized there are organizations available to help anyone dealing with grief, anxiety, depression or other emotions. Mental health services are available at the community resource centers and by calling 319-362-2173. Here is another link to more resources.

LINN COUNTY

Linn County Supervisor Ben Rogers highlighted collection and disposal options for tree debris. A private contractor will haul away debris from areas in unincorporated areas. Residents can also drop off debris at the Solid Waste Agency Sites or four additional sites: Morgan Creek Park, Mt. Vernon Secondary Road Shop, Whittier Secondary Road Shop, Dallas Farm off Mount Vernon Road. Disposal fees apply at the two Solid Waste Agency locations. There is no charge for rural Linn County residents at the four county drop sites.

The county also has a storm resource page available by clicking here.

The county also suspended limits on open burning of debris in the unincorporated areas - but this is only for debris on a private residence from that private residence. Rogers said the county has had complaints of massive burns of debris from other areas brought to one spot.

Linn County Secondary Roads work is now shifting from debris removal to replacing damaged signs.

Rogers also reiterated the safety concerns around COVID-19 during the disaster and urged people to follow social distancing and wearing masks even during the disaster recovery.

-Copyright 2020 KCRG. All rights reserved.

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