Derecho aftermath: Beaman and Conrad regain power after multi-day outage

A downed tree at the Oakwood Golf Course on the south side of Conrad. (Robert Maharry/The Grundy Register photo)
Robert Maharry
The Grundy Register

AREA- Residents of Beaman and Conrad rejoiced over the weekend as Alliant Energy restored power after a prolonged outage due to the derecho storm last Monday.


According to Beaman Mayor Ann Smith, there are still a few residences in the community that have not regained power because of equipment and connection issues, but she is thankful for the work crews performed to get the lights back on.


Conrad Mayor Jeff Martin echoed a similar sentiment, praising the utility workers and city employees who have so far hauled at least 140 dump truck loads of trees and brush. Martin added that he expects about 140 more loads to be hauled before the cleanup is complete.


“As far as power is concerned, I had a pretty good contact with Alliant and was getting some timely updates,” Martin said. “They weren’t telling things I wanted to hear. They were being honest… 5 ½ days seemed like a long time, but they did it in record time.”


At least half of Beaman had power restored by Friday, and most of Conrad’s grid was back on by Saturday evening. Initial estimates shared by Martin on social media indicated a projected restoration date of Sunday. Crews traveled from areas as disparate as Indiana, Colorado and the east coast. Martin issued a local disaster declaration via Facebook, and the city council’s scheduled meeting for Thursday was postponed by a week due to the outage.


“From what I’ve seen and what I’ve heard, there are countless examples of people helping each other out. Anytime Conrad goes through something like this, and luckily it’s not very often, but when it does, everybody helps,” Martin said. “It’s easy to get down in the dumps. It’s easy to get upset, and we didn’t have much of that. It’s just an everybody get through it type of attitude.”


During the outage, the Beaman Memorial Hall was operated on a generator and left open for families that needed to cook meals and charge their devices. Smith noted that she was encouraged by the goodwill and camaraderie she witnessed during a hard time for the city.


“We already knew this, but people do willingly help out. This time, it’s just been extraordinary,” she said.


Governor Kim Reynolds has issued a disaster declaration for 25 Iowa counties as a result of the straight-line windstorm, and Grundy was one of the last counties added to the declaration. The southern half of the county saw the worst damages, and areas north of Highway 175 were not impacted by the storm.


A preliminary estimate has pegged the statewide damage at around $4 billion, and on Monday morning, President Donald Trump approved a request from Reynolds for a federal disaster declaration. During a stop in Grundy Center on Monday afternoon, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst told The Grundy Register that she had spoken with the president earlier in the day and pressed him for a quick stamp of approval on the declaration. She also defended the governor against accusations that she waited too long to file for the declaration.


“It is approved, and it’s a week later. That’s record time in getting a presidential disaster declaration done. The communities have been working very hard to get the information to the governor, and once she had all of that information, she submitted it over the weekend, the president approved it today and we are anticipating a visit from him in the very, very near future,” Ernst said. “There are some folks out there that don’t understand that to get this information together, you can’t just, as a governor, say ‘Oh, today I’m going to declare an emergency declaration.’… All of that information has to be gathered up, compiled into a report and forwarded. Once the governor had that, she was able to go ahead with the declaration.”


Ernst added that she told President Trump she had never seen anything like the storm before and called it a “humanitarian crisis,” specifically referencing the scenes from Cedar Rapids, Iowa’s second largest city.


When reached by phone on Monday, Grundy County Emergency Management Director Roger Carr said he was still assessing damage and would likely be busy doing it throughout the week.


The latest outage map on the Alliant Energy website noted 90 total outages remaining in the Conrad area, 45 in the Beaman area, nine in the Reinbeck area and one in Morrison. A total of 50,293 Alliant customers across Iowa and Wisconsin were still without power at press time, most of them along the Highway 30 corridor between Ames and Cedar Rapids.


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