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Cleanup underway as Ames area recovers from powerful storm

Robbie Sequeira and Kiley Wellendorf Staff Writers kwellendorf@amestrib.com
Ames Tribune

In the aftermath of the storm that swept through central Iowa and caused power outages and widespread damage in Story County and neighboring areas, city and county officials are offering a variety of services for affected residents.

Story and Boone counties were included on Gov. Kim Reynolds’ disaster proclamation Tuesday, which covers 13 counties and will allow state resources to be used to respond to the effects of the storm and aid recovery.

By Tuesday afternoon, PowerOutage.us tracked 9,718 electric customers — 64.5% — in Story County still without power. That’s down from 86% Monday afternoon.

In Ames, city officials said that power had not been restored to city hall until Tuesday afternoon, and Ames City Council postponed Tuesday night’s meeting, saying that residents without power would not have access to the meeting.

All day, Ames crews worked to restore power within city limits.

“The city of Ames has experienced many weather-related events and we have coordinated our response to help clusters of communities affected,” city spokesperson Susan Gwiasda said.

The city’s main priority was to ensure a majority of Ames customers had power restored by Tuesday night, “because we know how hard it is to work without electricity,” she said.

Gwiasda said that electrical crews are looking to restore power to clustered communities, and will hope to address more isolated areas — those surrounded by trees or outside of commercial areas — as soon as bulk of customers are operational.

Additionally, Gwiasda informed residents that cleanup for fallen trees will need to be assessed before removal and that the process could take a few days to a week.

Wind speeds varied from 50 to 80 mph in Story and Boone counties during the derecho, according to the National Weather Service. A derecho is a rare straight-line wind storm that can cause heavy rain, flash flooding, hurricane-force winds and tornadoes.

Story County Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald said during the Tuesday morning Board of Supervisors meeting that while there is widespread damage throughout the county, there were no fatalities in the area caused by the storm.

“The storm hit by surprise, much like most communities in Iowa,” he said. “There was widespread devastation throughout the county but I think the community deserves a pat on the back with back for their response and willingness to help their neighbors to clear debris and getting trash off the roads.”

Jerry Moore, the county’s director of planning, identified 16 residents who were displaced from their homes due to the storm’s damage and were rehoused by county resources.

During the supervisors’ meeting, county staff warned residents to be cautious of traveling on county roads and noted that there are still many passageways with road-blocking electrical wires and trees.

County engineer Darren Moon said that said there a roughly 100 road signs throughout the county that have been downed by the high winds and it will take time to clean up and install new signage.

All Story County Conservation parks and areas are closed until further notice as a result of the storm, according to a release Tuesday.

“The windstorm has caused extensive damage: downed trees have blocked roads, parking lots, and trails,” the Story County Conservation release said. “Even standing trees pose threats as many have damaged and hanging branches. Staff need time and space to safely clear hazards before parks can reopen.”

In Boone County, several areas including Luther, Madrid and Ogden had extensive damage reports, according to the NWS.

Ames community cares

As neighborhoods in Ames waited for power to kick back in, two residents offered a creative way to help while maintaining social distance: outdoor charging stations.

Ames residents Gail Shook and Deb Kline both separately set up outdoor charging stations on their property to assist people who were still without power.

Kline and her husband were able to charge their devices while driving around in their car after the storm, she said. The option, however, was difficult for those who were unable to fill their gas tanks due to power outages throughout Ames.

“We had a full tank and we were able to drive around and charge up our phones,” she said on Tuesday.

Shook said she also heard people driving to Boone to get gas to charge their phones.

Both Kline and Shook were able to secure power late Monday evening, but many neighborhoods in the area were still without.

“I’m kind of a unique situation,” Cook said. “I’m on one side of Stafford Ave., and I have electricity, but just across the street, they don’t.”

Tuesday morning, Shook set out a card table, chairs, and gathered all the outlets she could find before posting the offer to Facebook.

Kline did the same, sharing a photo of the setup which included chairs and a table with an outlet to the “Ames People” Facebook group, which gathered over 1,000 responses from community members at noon Tuesday.

“It’s just that frustrating feeling of not being able to charge your phone,” Kline said.

Many in Story County came together to help during the outage, including Amy Lee Dawson who offered free, homemade meals to families Tuesday evening, and the Ames Black Lives Matter organization, which offered water and snacks to the community at Memorial Union Tuesday evening.

“During these times, I firmly believe that Iowa or Midwest in general shine to the rest of the world,” Shook said. “I think about the aftermaths that we’ve seen happening in different hurricanes down south in many places, and you hear a few pocketed stories about people helping people, but in Iowa, everybody is pitching in and trying to lend a hand and checking in on their neighbors. You just don’t hear that and experience that in a lot of other places.”

Ames Tribune