The past weekend's winter storm left a thick ice coating followed by up to 10 inches of snow. Over 250,000 Iowans were without electrical power after the storm was over on Sunday evening February 25. As of noon on Monday February 26, a total of around 100,000 electrical customers around the state are still without power, according to estimates made by Iowa's three main electrical utilities.
Many of the people who still have no power are in rural areas. The storm has affected 58 counties in central and eastern Iowa and has also disrupted the state's agriculture sector. As of Sunday evening Alliant Energy reported up to 100,000 Iowa customers without power, while MidAmerican Energy reported up to 65,000 without power. In addition, the Iowa Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives reported that as many as 100,000 rural customers were also without power.
"As more information comes in, the seriousness of this storm becomes more clear," said Iowa Governor Chet Culver as he toured the state on Monday. "The state emergency team has done a terrific job coordinating the response and we are doing everything we can to help the utility companies get power back to the hundreds of thousands of Iowans who need it." Culver signed an official proclamation suspending several transportation regulations to allow service and repair crews to respond to disaster sites.
Livestock producers can get help
The Iowa Department of Agriculture is working with Governor Culver and state emergency management officials to assist livestock producers during this crisis.
Livestock producers are reporting a critical need for electrical generators to power environmental controls for buildings and to supply water for livestock in the affected counties. "Producers in need of generators should contact the Center for Agriculture Security at 515-281-5798," says Bill Northey, Iowa secretary of agriculture.
"We've fielded over 75 phone calls this morning from producers who need generators to power their livestock buildings," he said at noon on Monday.
Livestock producers suffering massive livestock mortalities or in an emergency situation should contact their local Emergency Management Agency, their county Sheriff's office, or the agriculture desk at the State Emergency Operations Center at (515) 323-4267.
"Producers should also contact their local Farm Service Administration office to notify the office of storm-related damage, losses of livestock and any critical needs - as soon as possible," says Northey.
Many rural customers without power
Iowa's Rural Electric Co-ops estimated 80,000 to 100,000 member consumers were without power on Sunday Feb. 25 - immediately after the storm, says Ann Foster, director of communications for the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives. As of noon on Monday Feb. 26, she says approximately 40,000 rural electric customers are still without power. "We are making progress in repairing downed lines, and we are getting help from out of state crews. But it is going to take awhile longer to get the repairs made and the power back on in the more remote rural areas," says Foster.
"We have more than 4,000 poles broken in Iowa, and a lot of lines are still down," she says. "The worst areas are in the eastern part of the state - especially in east central Iowa. In some cases it's going to take 3 to 4 days before power can be restored. In other cases it'll take a week or more to get the structures, poles and transmission lines rebuilt. Mother Nature is a lot stronger than anything we can build, which is evidenced by the number of steel structures that have been buckled and knocked down by this past weekend's severe ice storm, heavy snowfall and strong winds."
Besides the hundreds of downed distribution and transmission poles, some substation outages are a problem. Crews are currently still assessing damage and will continue working throughout the coming days and overnight hours to restore outages. The Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives is coordinating with crews from electric co-ops in neighboring states to assist with helping power restoration efforts in Iowa.