Iowa officials respond to the aftermath of the derecho

A worker cuts a fallen tree outside of Parks Library. The tree damage was so significant it was necessary to cut the limbs into smaller pieces for cleanup.

Amber Mohmand

Three days after a derecho with reported 100 mph winds hit Iowa, residents are cleaning the debris from their yards, most without power. 

In Ames, the Fire Department Chief Rich Higgins shared some safety measures residents are asked to follow. 

“If there’s [fallen] downed power lines, leave them alone, leave them there,” Higgins said. “If you’re [cleaning your] yard or you’re out for a walk, make sure you’re looking up. Unfortunately, some of the limbs get broken off and get stuck in the tree and they don’t come down on the ground. We don’t want one of those falling on people. We, unfortunately, lost a lot of beautiful trees in our community, and we don’t want to lose any of our community members from a tree limb or downline. So we’re just asking people to be extra cautious during this time and if you don’t have to go out don’t go out right now.”

A total of 54 911 calls were made on Monday and 40 calls were made on Tuesday. Higgins said on a typical day the emergency department will receive 12 to 13 calls. 

“There were no significant injuries, thank goodness, because of the storm but there were some people that fell down the stairs when the electricity went out, there were people stuck in elevators,” Higgins said. “A lot of automatic alarms — carbon monoxide detectors — going off with the power outage. There are some minor vehicle accidents […] So we’ve had to respond to quite a few [calls], whether it was a fire or just the line down to help secure that area and keep us safe so that no citizens would get hurt by the electrical lines.” 

So far, about 80 to 85 percent of the Ames community has power restored while 15 to 20 percent remain powerless. 

“So, what we’re telling people now is it’s gonna be days, if not into next week that it’s gonna take your power restored, the damage is just that extensive,” Higgins said. “The one thing we want to keep reminding people of is that even though you’re without power, there were no real injuries, no one killed during the storm so everyone did a great job in our community taking shelter.”

Gov. Kim Reynolds issued a disaster proclamation in response to the derecho that moved across Iowa and caused widespread damage Monday. 

This allows counties — including Story County — to utilize state resources to respond and recover from the effects of the storm. This also activates the Iowa Individual Assistance Grant Program for qualifying residents, along with the Disaster Case Management Program, for Dallas, Johnson, Marshall and Story counties. 

“The Iowa Individual Assistance Grant Program provides grants of up to $5,000 for households with incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level or a maximum annual income of $43,440 for a family of three,” according to the proclamation. “Grants are available for home or car repairs, replacement of clothing or food and temporary housing expenses. Original receipts are required for those seeking reimbursement for actual expenses related to storm recovery. The grant application and instructions are available on the Iowa Department of Human Services website. Potential applicants have 45 days from the date of the proclamation to submit a claim.”

The Disaster Case Management is a program to address serious needs to overcome a disaster-related hardship, injury or adverse condition, according to the proclamation, and disaster case managers work with clients to create a disaster recovery plan and provide guidance, advice and referral to obtain a service or resource.

There are no income eligibility requirements for this program and it closes 180 days from the date of the governor’s proclamation. 

Additionally, the proclamation temporarily suspends regulatory provisions pertaining to weight limits and hours of service for disaster repair crews and drivers delivering goods and services and the movement of loads related to responding to the severe storm system throughout the state of Iowa.

Proclamations may be issued for additional counties.

“Iowa residents of counties impacted by the recent severe weather are asked to report damage to help local and state officials better understand the damage sustained,” according to the proclamation. “Damage to property, roads, utilities and other storm-related information may be reported. This information will be collected by the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and shared with local emergency management agencies.”

The city of Ames also provided updates regarding cleanup, resources and power through Facebook and Twitter.

Two disposal options have been announced for the removal of tree debris from Monday’s storm: a self-haul drop-off site and a curbside pickup program. 

Tree debris may be dropped at the free site at 308 East Ave., the city’s former coal yard, according to a news release. The site will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to noon Saturday and Sunday, through Aug. 23. 

To access the site, use the following route:

  • Enter from the east on East Lincoln Way

  • Turn right (north) onto Borne Avenue

  • Head north on Borne Avenue into the coal yard

  • Drop off debris

  • Leave coal yard and exit onto Center Avenue

  • You must turn right onto East Lincoln Way

The drop-off site will only be available for Ames property owners to dispose of storm tree debris.

A curbside pickup program will begin Monday and continue until all the debris has been picked up.

The rules are as follows:

  • Property owners must place tree debris parallel to the curb

  • Debris must not be placed next to fire hydrants, electric transformers, etc.

  • Debris should be cut in lengths of no more than 8 feet long

The elderly and disabled are asked to call 515-239-5670 for assistance in moving the debris. Assistance in moving debris to the curb is available for the elderly and disabled. 

“We’ll get through it,” Higgins said. “We’ve no doubt about it. We have a great community with great people in it and this is a time for age to shine through the pandemic and also through the storm.”