Governor Chet Culver is warning Iowans who’ve lost electricity becauseof this weekend’s winter storm that it could be days before power is restored to all Iowa households. "This is perhaps the most severe winter storm we’ve had in recent history. It in all likelihood will be worse than the 1990 ice storm," Culver says. "We are urging Iowans to be prepared to wait at least 72 more hours, in many areas perhaps longer."
The winter storm which bore down on the state this weekend knocked out power to tens of thousands of Iowans. By mid-afternoon Sunday, Iowa’s Electric Cooperatives and investor-owned utilities estimated that a quarter of a million homes in Iowa were still without power. "So it is a very serious situation," Culver told Radio Iowa in an interview at three o’clock Sunday afternoon. "We are doing our very best, working at the state and local level, to deal with this very serious storm."
Shortly after eight o’clock Saturday evening the governor declared 58 of Iowa’s 99 counties disaster areas — basically the eastern two-thirds of the state, from Interstate-35 eastward. The governor’s move means state resources are now available to help local communities beset by power outages and roads covered in ice and snow.
Culver says opening shelters has been a top priority. "We now have about 40 shelters up and running in the state. There will be more, thanks for the Red Cross and the Salvation Army and local officials — if needed," Culver says. "As a back-up, we have 28 National Guard Armories that can be used as shelters at a moment’s notice."
Culver’s urging Iowans who cannot make it out of their homes to get to a shelter to call 911. Power outages could last for several days in parts of the state" and the governor says Iowans should be prepared to "shelter" in their homes for up to 72 hours — and in some areas even longer. "The problem is you have severe ice and sleet and snow combinations, which means that power lines have fallen, obviously, and towers have fallen throughout the state," Culver says. "The toughest part is the actual reconnect that will be required from the street to the home. That will require manual labor in many cases."
The governor says that’s why officials have been so focused on getting shelters set up because some Iowans could be without power for up to five days, or even longer. "We want Iowans to know that we stand ready to help them, but they should prepare," Culver says.
The following 58 counties are covered by the governor’s disaster proclamation: Allamakee, Benton, Black Hawk, Boone, Bremer, Buchanan, Butler, Cedar, Cerro Gordo, Chickasaw, Clarke, Clayton, Clinton, Dallas, Delaware, Des Moines, Dubuque, Fayette, Floyd, Franklin, Grundy, Hamilton, Hancock, Hardin, Henry, Howard, Humboldt, Iowa, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Johnson, Jones, Keokuk, Kossuth, Linn, Louisa, Lucas, Madison, Mahaska, Marion, Marshall, Mitchell, Monroe, Muscatine, Polk, Poweshiek, Scott, Story, Tama, Wapello, Warren, Washington, Webster, Winnebago, Winneshiek, Worth and Wright.
You can listen to Radio Iowa’s Sunday afternoon interview with Governor Culver by clicking on the audio link below.