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About 40 percent of Linn County residents are still without power; Cedar Rapids prohibiting outdoor fires


House in Cedar Rapids with tree branches and debris piled in front of it. — Jason Smith/Little Village

A week after a derecho wreaked havoc on Iowa, almost 40 percent of Linn County residents are still without electricity. Linn County was one of the areas in the state hit hardest by the storm.

A total of 41,104 customers — 36.7 percent — are without power in the county, as of Monday at noon. Most of these individuals — 40,122 customers — are Alliant Energy customers. When the derecho hit, nearly 100,000 Linn County residents were out of power, said Joel Schmidt, the company’s vice president of business development.

Linn County residents with outages account for nearly 60 percent of the total outages in the state. Iowa was reporting 67,537 outages statewide as of noon on Monday.

Map of power outage in Iowa by county as of Monday afternoon. — screengrab from PowerOutage.US

At a Monday news conference in Cedar Rapids, Alliant Energy reiterated their commitment from last Friday that power will be restored to a “significant number” of customers by end of day Tuesday. Schmidt estimated about 90 percent of customers, including in Cedar Rapids and Linn County, will have power.

There are more than 2,000 workers replacing power lines, with about 1,300 of those workers on the ground in Cedar Rapids, Schmidt said. Another 400 workers are coming into the area today to help with restoring power lines and tree trimming.

Jen Winter, the city’s director of public works, said power has been restored to about 100 of the city’s traffic signals, which is about half of the system. Winter said last week that all of the city’s 190 intersections got damaged.

Cedar Rapids adds burn ban

Fire Chief Greg Smith announced that a burn ban has been added to the city’s emergency proclamation.

“We want to remind citizens that burning debris is prohibited within the city limits and now outdoor recreational fires are also prohibited,” Smith said during the press conference. “Citizens can still use dry firewood in a fire pit to cook food for the period of time necessary to prepare the food only but then shall extinguish it. Charcoal and propane grills may still be used by single family homeowners for the duration of cooking the food.”

Smith said individuals with asthma, breathing conditions and those trying to stay cool are affected by the smoke lingering in the air. There is also an increased fire risk since tree debris is drying out.

City crews have picked up 5,600 truckloads of debris as of Sunday night, Winter said.

However, there is still a “staggering amount of debris” in the city, Winter said. If individuals don’t want to wait for the city to pick up their tree debris, they can drop it off at the former Cooper’s Mill location, F Avenue and 1st Street NW. Since the site opened Saturday morning, Winter said more than 1,000 vehicles stopped by to drop off debris. The site is open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Smith also mentioned the city’s police department and fire department have been getting double the amount of calls.

“We are seeing about an average of 350 to 400 911 calls daily and approximately 700 to 800 nonemergency calls daily. Our normal average is about 200 911 calls and 500 non emergency calls per day,” Smith said.

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