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Hundreds of thousands in Iowa remain without power after rare storm damaged thousands of homes

Days after a rare storm with the wind speed of a Category 2 hurricane ravaged through the Midwest, hundreds of thousands of people in Iowa are still without electricity. The deadly storm, known as a derecho, ripped across Iowa and surrounding states on Monday, heavily damaging schools, homes and millions of acres of farmland in its wake.

More than 200,000 people Alliant Energy customers lost power because of the storm, the utility said. As of Saturday afternoon, about half of those customers were still without power. Alliant Energy said on Saturday that they expect a “significant number of customers” will have access to power by the end of day on Tuesday. 

Cedar Rapids was one of the hardest hit areas in the state. At least 1,627 properties were damaged, and more than 1,000 homes are now “unlivable,” CBS affiliate KGAN reported. 

Tim Quinn, chief of clinical operations for Mercy Medical Center, told Iowa Public Radio that hospitals are being flooded with patients. Although damage to hospitals is not “catastrophic,” he said, it’s “definitely widespread.” 

On Friday, UnityPoint Health’s St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids said they treated 265 patients in the emergency room in 24 hours. 

Hundreds of people have posted photos and videos of the devastation on social media, many begging for help. They are various reports of destroyed homes and of people going days without access to food or water. 

U.S. Representative Abby Finkenauer of Iowa’s 1st congressional district posted a video on Twitter Friday saying that she is “going on night 5 of no electricity.” 

“At least there is gas now available within the city,” she said in the video that was taken in front of an uprooted tree. “We still need ice. We still need food, flashlights for folks. It is still very scary. … We know this is going to be a long road ahead.” 

Actor Ashton Kutcher, who is from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, slammed the federal government in a series of tweets this week about the lack of response to the devastation. 

“Where is the federal relief for Iowa,” he posted on Friday. “10m acres of crops have been destroyed. Houses. Communities. Wake up federal gov! What because it’s not called a tornado or hurricane you don’t need to act fast?” 

Kutcher directed his concerns at President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. Pence was in Urbandale, Iowa, on Friday, and used the damage from the storm to tout his support for law enforcement during a town hall. 

The same day, the Iowa National Guard was deployed into Cedar Rapids to help remove debris. Governor Kim Reynolds has announced emergency declarations for dozens of counties in the state. 

“The destruction was indescribable,” she said at a press conference on Friday, adding that Trump and Pence have “pledged their support” and told her they are ready to approve a federal disaster declaration. Reynolds said the state will submit an application on Monday for the declaration. 

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship announced that more than 6 million acres of corn and soybeans were greatly impacted by Monday’s storm. Some of the crops, the department said, were “destroyed.” 

The state said it lost “tens of millions of bushels” of grain storage from the storm. Some of that loss took place just 60 miles away from where Pence launched a “Farmers and Ranchers for Trump” coalition in Des Moines.

Mr. Trump tweeted on Tuesday that the federal government “is in close coordination with state officials.”  

At least three people in Iowa and one person in Indiana were killed by the storm, which is believed to have traveled 1,000 miles from South Dakota to northwest Ohio. 

The storm hit as Iowa is dealing with rising cases of coronavirus. There were 841 new cases reported on Saturday, according to KGAN, and more than 51,000 people have been diagnosed with the disease so far.

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