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The August 10 derecho was powerful enough to rip the roofs off of houses and flatten buildings. Photo by Ron Reynolds.

Cedar Rapids Residents Face $1000s in Surprise Expenses — And Most Can’t Get Any Relief

Ben Kaplan
Aug 14, 2020 · 3 min read

It has been five days without power for most of Linn County. Alliant energy has announced that nearly all customers will have power within five to seven days. The grid might be back in that amount of time but many customers will still be without power for long afterwards. This is because the derecho destroyed countless homeowners house knobs — the houses connection to the electrical grid — which is the homeowner or property owners responsibility to replace.

Eric Gutschmidt, owner of Gutschmidt Properties, spent most of yesterday trying to track down house knobs, one and one quarter inch Milbank hubs, two inch Milbank hubs, and two inch metal weather heads to replace the power connections on his properties. He found the necessary components in stock in Florida, Oregon, and Texas. He estimates that he needs 15 to 20 of each component. No single electrical supply warehouse could fulfill his full order.

It’s unknown how many houses in Linn County will need their individual power connections replaced. A conservative estimate is thousands. The components cost a few hundred dollars all in, and must be installed by a licensed electrician at an additional cost of a few hundred dollars. Posts on Facebook and Reddit looking for electricians suggest that the wait time for an electrician to do this work is about two weeks.

An unknown number of homes are simply destroyed.

Cedar Rapids hourly workers have now lost a weeks worth of pay. They will probably lose another week — a whole paycheck gone. Some plants are offering limited shifts for cleanup.

Help and assistance are extremely limited. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds issued a disaster proclamation for Linn County, which allows residents to apply for state disaster relief. Except this disaster relief is only available to residents making 200 percent of the federal poverty level or below. For a family of four that’s $52,404. For an individual the income limit is $25,524. The median household income in Cedar Rapids is $59,000. A family of four would only be able to claim $100 in food assistance and fast food costs are explicitly not allowed to be claimed. Fast food from neighboring communities is one of the few ways to get a hot meal most Linn County residents have had for the last week.

Homeowners are facing four figure deductibles that don’t include tree removal. Tree removal for an individual tree can cost thousands. Nearly every single home in the city sustained damage, and every property in the city sustained damage.

Many cars were destroyed during the storm, either by falling trees or flying debris.

Middle class Iowans face thousands in out of pocket costs without any assistance. If there was a federal disaster proclamation there would be no income restrictions for disaster relief grant applications.

Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart addressed the community for the first time since the disaster yesterday. It was disastrous. In an interview with KCRG TV-9 he said:

“I don’t know that we need help. That’s the thing…I…I just told you, I don’t know what other resources the National Guard could do. Could they do traffic control? Could they bring ice? Could they bring water? I don’t know that, I’m trying to find that out.” When asked about who is leading the City of Cedar Rapids’ response to Monday’s storm, Hart said he views his role as that of a spokesperson and that Pomeranz was in charge of operations.

“I am a bit of kinda the spokesperson for this city so that’s certainly part of my role,” Hart said. “Part of my role is to help get information out. Part of my role in this is to reassure people that we’ll get through this, and here is what the city is doing and will continue to do . . . he’s not in charge of policies; he’s in charge of operations.”

Brad Hart should resign before the end of the day.

The city did announce last night that they are calling in the National Guard. Kim Reynolds will tour Cedar Rapids today.

Maybe, after five days, we will finally get help.

Corridor Urbanism

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