Clean up is underway in several counties following the major wind storm that blew across Iowa Monday morning. Benton County is one of two to receive a state disaster declaration from the governor. County emergency management director, Scott Hansen, says the path of the storm was 10-miles wide.
Hansen says there were winds of 110 to 130 miles-an-hour and he says “there isn’t a cornfield in northern Benton County that is not flat, on the ag side, it looks pretty devastating.” He says there’s damage to buildings and trees in every city and in the rural areas. Hansen sums up the number of trees damaged in one simple statement.
“All of ’em, that’s the easiest way to say it, it’s pretty massive,” Hansen says, “everywhere you look out in the country, or in any of our communities there are whole trees and three-qurters of trees, halves of trees,just down everywhere.” Hansen says they’ve been able to get most of the downed power lines off roads to open them back up.
Hansen says they are working to help people who had their homes damaged and he says many still don’t have electricity. He says 80-percent of Vinton is still without power, all of Garrison is without power, a lot of Urbana is without power and many of the rural areas are still without power, as they had many high-transmission wood poles snapped off and metal poles bent over.
As for the recovery effort, he says residents need to know it’s now a marathon, not a sprint. “It’s not gonna happen fast, that’s the message we are getting out today,” Hansen says. He says the state disaster designation has allowed the D.O.T. to bring in trucks and grapple loaders along with Department of Corrections personnel to Vinton to help pull out the debris.
He says they are working on lining up the same type of help for Urbana and Garrison to help them manage their debris. Hansen says patience is the most important thing needed right now to help the county recover from the massive damage. Hansen says it’s amazing with the amount of damage across the county that there were not any injuries, and now the goal is to keep it that way with the cleanup.
He says with downed power lines and chain saws working, it is just as dangerous as it was during the storm. “We want to keep people safe, we don’t need to be going at this really fast, because it is going to take a long time anyway,” Hansen said.
One of the cleanup problems is what to do with all the storm debris. Hansen says cities have designated debris sites, but they are filling up quickly and they are working with the state to set up temporary debris sites. He says they are confident they will get such sites set up in Vinton and Garrison and Urbana today and tomorrow.
Hansen says all the cities have worked well together with the county as they work toward clearing roadways and getting services restored. Tama County just to the east was also given a state disaster declaration.
Photo courtesy of Angie Holmes, Vinton