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Cedar Rapids estimates first pass through every street to clear storm debris could take a month

Published: Sep. 1, 2020 at 5:27 AM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The City of Cedar Rapids says its crews, along with Iowa Department of Transportation and private contracting crews, are working seven days a week for shifts up to 12 hours long to clear derecho tree debris at curbsides all throughout the city.

For many Cedar Rapids residents, getting those tree limbs and branches removed from the front of their homes can’t happen soon enough.

William Musser, who lives in northwest Cedar Rapids, said sawing, dragging, and tossing tree debris around his yard to the pile next to his driveway has become a “never-ending task” over the last three weeks.

“You turn your back, and you get one pile cleaned up, and then you turn around, and you’ve got another whole tree to clean up,” Musser said.

As of Monday, the City of Cedar Rapids reported crews had made a first pass to clear debris from 25% of city roads, but Musser’s wasn’t among them. People can track workers’ progress with a map updated regularly by the city.

City staff added it could be a month before crews reach every street for the first time, but they could have a more accurate estimate on that timeframe later this week.

“When I see other people are getting cleaned up, it makes me hopeful that they’re coming,” Musser said. “So you know they’re out working. You see them out working, and they’ll get to you when they can.”

But with each day, the pile in front of his home only grows bigger.

“This has kind of been my life for the past few weeks — just get off work, come home, and start working again until the sun goes down,” Musser said.

Two doors down on Woodside Drive NW, sawed-down trees and dried leaves are spilling into the street in front of Terry Core’s house.

“It kind of hard, watching, backing out of driveways and stuff. It’s pretty much one lane here on this road, and you’ve just got to go slower and just be safe,” Core said.

He’s seen the debris crews drive right past his home, traveling between other neighborhoods and the area where the city is storing the debris it’s collected.

“When I see them trucks, it’s like, ‘Oh, goody!’” Core said.

They’ve yet to stop at his home.

“Oh well,” he said. “It’ll get done.”

But at least Core is already getting rid of one tree: a big hickory from his backyard that fell on his roof during the Aug. 10 derecho.

He put the fallen tree up on Craigslist, free for anyone who would chop it up and move it out, and he said a person from Mount Vernon took him up on his offer.

“I got people coming to get for firewood and smoking. I’d hate to see it go to waste,” Core said.

Meanwhile, his neighbor William Musser is still chipping away, moving as much as he can to the curb before trucks arrive to haul it away — whenever that will be.

It’s exhausting work for someone not getting a whole lot of sleep right now as it is.

“It takes its toll, especially when you’ve got a newborn inside,” he said. “But, you know, it’s not going to clean itself.”

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