Trump Signs Disaster Declaration for Iowa After Wind Storm

The bulk of the money requested by the governor will go toward helping farmers who lost crops and grain-storage structures.

Members of the Iowa National Guard use chainsaws to cut limbs off a downed tree as storm cleanup continued in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Saturday. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette via AP)

DES MOINES, Iowa (CN) — President Donald Trump on Monday approved federal disaster assistance to Iowa following last week’s rare wind storm that leveled trees, power lines and millions of acres of cornfields.

The president said he would visit Cedar Rapids, the worst hit area, on Tuesday. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds had asked for nearly $4 billion in federal emergency funds for the storm, known as a derecho.  

“I just approved an emergency declaration for Iowa, who had an incredible wind storm like probably they’ve never seen before,” Trump told reporters outside the White House, according to a transcript. “It really did a lot of damage. So I’ve informed the governor; I’ve informed Senator Grassley and Senator Joni Ernst. So I’ve approved the declaration — emergency declaration for Iowa.”

A White House official confirmed to the Des Moines Register Monday afternoon that Trump will visit Cedar Rapids on Tuesday. Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Pete Gaynor traveled to the Hawkeye State on Monday.

The derecho (pronounced “deh-REY-cho”), which is described by the National Weather Service as a long-lived wind storm that can produce destructive straight-line winds similar to the strength of tornadoes, originated in South Dakota and swept across Nebraska, Iowa and other Midwestern states last Monday. The storm cut a swath through the center of the state from border to border across the center of the state.

The storm killed at least three Iowans, damaged an estimated 10 million acres of cropland and left nearly half a million Iowans without power at its peak. One man who was riding his bicycle in Linn County was killed when he was struck by a falling tree, and in Poweshiek County a woman was struck by a large tree while sitting on her porch. The third victim, an electrician, was electrocuted while working to restore power.

As of Monday morning, an estimated 75,000 Iowa customers were still without power, 42,000 of them in the Cedar Rapids area.

“Iowa experienced a widespread derecho storm event initiated by thunderstorms that developed over South Dakota on the morning of Aug. 10,” according to the governor’s letter to the president seeking assistance. “By mid-morning Aug. 10 the storm had developed a bow echo shape with Doppler radar-indicated winds of 120 miles per hour at 1,800 feet elevation, an indication of gusts of over 90 mph.”

Cedar Rapids, Iowa’s second largest city, was hardest hit. The scene was described by residents as like a “war zone” with trees and power lines down, roofs and exteriors ripped from homes, and traffic blocked by entire trees lying across streets. At one point, more than 90% of the city’s electric customers were without power.

Governor Reynolds, a Republican, sent in state emergency response teams and later activated the Iowa National Guard, which brought emergency generators to the city. Iowa utility companies called in the help of thousands of utility crews and contractors from several nearby states to restore power. The American Red Cross and Salvation Army also set up shelters and canteen services.

Reynolds’ request for nearly $4 billion federal disaster assistance for 27 of Iowa’s 99 counties would go toward public assistance, private utilities and homes with major damage, with the largest share – nearly $3.8 billion – for agriculture alone to help farmers who lost corn and soybean and grain-storage structures.

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