CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Governor Kim Reynolds and the Iowa National Guard are on the ground in Cedar Rapids on Friday, visiting Iowa’s second largest city for the first time since a historic derecho storm knocked out power across the city four days ago.
At the peak of Monday’s storm the entire city of Cedar Rapids was left in the dark. As of Friday at Noon 67,000 of the 97,000 Alliant Energy Customers in Linn County are still without power. Alliant says it could be weeks before all power is restored. Parts of the city remain impassible from downed trees and power lines, 96 hours after the storm first arrived.
Governor Reynolds deferred questions about her delay in visiting Cedar Rapids to Linn County emergency management officials. Reynolds says it is up to local officials to request disaster assistance. "They are on the ground, they need to coordinate with us," the Governor said.
Adjutant General Benjamin Corell, commander of the Iowa National Guard, says that the first requests for assistance from Linn County didn’t come until Thursday. He says liaisons were sent to Linn County that day to begin coordinating efforts. On Friday a civil support team made up of more than 100 soldiers arrived along with Guard commanders in Cedar Rapids.
"Yesterday afternoon we started receiving inquiries from Linn County about obtaining support from the Iowa National Guard,” Gen. Corell said, “Some even wondered where is the Iowa National Guard? Well the Iowa National Guard is here, we’ve come and we’re ready to get to work."
Corell said the devastation he is seeing from the derecho is the worst storm damage he’s ever seen in Iowa. He said he’s spent decades responding to Iowa storm disaster zones, but this looks like a coastal disaster area. “The last time I saw this was in 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina,” Corell said.
Twenty-five of Iowa’s 99 counties are now covered by a disaster proclamation issued by Governor Reynolds. The governor says an application for federal disaster recovery will be made as soon as Monday by her office.
Vice President Mike Pence promised the federal government will help the state rebuild during a visit to Iowa on Thursday. The Vice President did not tour storm damage while he was in Iowa but did hold two campaign events.