As Lyon County Emergency Management coordinator, Wayne Jepsen, stated, “Lyon County took the brunt of the storm.” According to Jepsen, the county sustained $3.9 million in damages, and that did not include the loss of electrical power before cleanup.
Following last week’s ice and snow storm, towns and farms in the county looked very much like a disaster area, with no electricity and streets, roads and lawns littered with broken branches and, in some cases, entire trees.
Electrical power came and went for a couple days in most areas, but Larchwood and Lester were left in the dark from Tuesday until Saturday.
Last Saturday, Jepsen met with council members from the various Lyon County towns to give them an update on the status of receiving federal assistance and to provide guidelines for documenting cleanup efforts.
According to Jepsen, Mark Schouten from Iowa’s Homeland Security had put in a request for a Presidential Disaster Declaration and FEMA representatives were scheduled to arrive in the county Monday, April 15, to inspect damage. Estimated cubic yards of debris damage in the county towns had already been submitted to FEMA.
Before week’s end, Iowa Gov. Branstad had declared Lyon County, as well as several other northwest Iowa counties, a disaster area, making state assets available for cleanup, etc. Jepsen noted that state assets did not include monetary funds.
Jepsen told those present that volunteer organizations were available to come in after streets and lawns were cleaned of debris and remove tree hangers — limbs that had broken but not fallen to the ground, presenting continued danger to the public. Before the meeting was over, mayors and city councilors from the county towns approved his making a request to have that done. In response to a question concerning rural areas/farms being included for removal of tree hangers, Jepsen said he did not know, but he would check into that possiblity.
Jepsen said that although cleanup could begin, to qualify for federal assistance, a number of rules and regulations would need to be followed. He provided town councils with information on those regulations and said they would have to work with the residents in their town to comply. Most importantly, said Jepsen, they needed to keep documentation of steps taken and hours involved. If some of the cleanup was done on contract, they needed to get at least two bids and take the lowest. He cautioned them to make sure they were working with someone reputable.
Since George had previously worked with FEMA following flooding in that town, the city clerk provided each town with paperwork which would need to be filled out should they seek federal assistance.
Supervisor Steve Michael was in attendance and said that some county assets such as chippers and trucks might be available, but the county is limited by liability requirements.
Before the meeting ended, mayors, city clerks and/or council members from the various towns provided information as to how their town was coping.
Lester mayor, Dan Gerber, said that while their was minimal damage to infrastructure, downed branches were bad, especially at the park and cemetery. He said that the town burn site was not a large enough area for all the debris that would need to be hauled and they were looking for a chipper. Jepsen said to pile the chips separately from other debris for measurement and then use it as mulch at a later date. For Lester, electricity was, of course, a major problem.
Alvord mayor, Mark Nagel, reported lots of branches down in that town, but the town had electrical power most of the time. He said a lot of cleanup was already completed.
George city clerk, Laurie Korselman, said that town experienced on and off power and their was significant tree damage throughout the town. Since the nursing home had a backup generator, that facility was used as an emergency center.
Inwood city clerk, Carol Vander Kolk, also reported considerable tree damage in that town, but said cleanup began immediately. Electricity was on and off at Inwood over a period of 10-12 hours.
Larchwood mayor, Dean Snyder, reported a total electrical outage of 71 hours. The town purchased 15 generators and made them available to residents for purchase. People shared them as needed to warm houses and keep frozen food from spoiling. For those unable to obtain a generator, the town rented a reefer truck and residents could bring their frozen food for storage until power was restored. Food and pizza was made available at the community center for anyone needing something to eat.
Snyder also noted the town also received volunteer assistance in the form of a generator from Larco Homes to power up the community center for use as emergency headquarters and a donation of soup from Grand Falls Casino Resort. In addition to the hours put in by council members, Larchwood firefighters made a houst-to-house check a couple times to see if residents needed assistance or to provide information. Residents were given yellow sheets of paper to put on their doors if help was needed at any time. LEMS members also gave of their time to serve food at the community center and to check on residents using Lifeline.
Another victim of the electrical outage was West Lyon Community School which dismissed at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday and remained closed Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Having prom on Saturday, April 13, remained questionable, with consideration being given to accepting an offer from Central Lyon to move it to their facilities. Fortunately, by late Friday afternoon, the power was back on and parents and students began furiously working to have all the decorating and other preparations completed in time for what is one of the year’s highlights for juniors and seniors.
Patience and cooperation are likely the keys to successfully cleaning up an unbelievable mess in the area’s towns. While everyone would like to quickly get rid of the unsightly branches and twigs in their yards, much coordination is needed to accomplish that. Time will be needed for town councils and maintenance personnel to complete the task.