Derecho Damage Response

Many parts of Iowa were affected by a severe derecho storm that swept through the state on Monday, August 10, 2020. Sustained winds and gusts between 90-140 mph for up to 45 minutes caused extensive damage and power outages for hundreds of thousands of people, including Linn County residents and businesses. 

This page is updated as new information becomes available. Last update: 5/11/21 at 4:28 p.m.

Needs Assessment Questionnaire

Linn County residents impacted by the derecho are encouraged to complete the needs assessment questionnaire developed by community agencies including Linn County Public Health, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, HACAP, Waypoint, and other community partners. The information collected in this questionnaire will be used to identify needs that still exist following the derecho and may be shared with partner agencies in order to allocate resources. A network of community organizations, known as My Care Community, are working together to help meet the various needs of residents during this time of recovery. A member of the My Care Community will contact residents who request help and who include their contact information.

Complete the Questionnaire

Do You Need Help?

Have you been impacted by the August 10, 2020 derecho? Help is available! 

The State of Iowa has established a recovery website to help survivors from the August severe storms. Go to disasterrecovery.iowa.gov for a list of available resources and helpful information.

Debris Removal in Unincorporated Linn County

Property owners should contact their private insurance company to see what is covered by their insurance. Debris removal on private property is the property owner’s responsibility. If assistance is needed for debris removal, owners are encouraged to contact local contractors for assessments and cost estimates. Use caution when hiring unknown or out-of-state contractors. Be sure to get a quote for work and do not pay up front for removal or repair services. Contact your insurance company for information regarding damage claims. Save all of your receipts in case the expenses are eligible for reimbursement from insurance or a disaster relief program.

Debris collection and removal instructions are jurisdiction specific. The information here is specific to rural, unincorporated Linn County. 

Right-of-Way Pickup

The deadline to place tree and other vegetative debris in the right-of-way has passed. Linn County’s debris removal contractor, Ceres Environmental Services, Inc., will return April 26, 2021 to finish removing derecho tree debris that was placed in the right-of-way by the Nov. 9, 2020 deadline. Linn County documented these locations following the Nov. 9 deadline and submitted this information to FEMA to meet reimbursement requirements. Any vegetative/tree debris that was placed in the right-of-way after the Nov. 9 deadline is the responsibility of the property owner. To date, more than one million cubic yards of tree debris have been processed from property in unincorporated Linn County.

Residents in unincorporated Linn County who have vegetative debris from the derecho that was not placed in the right-of-way by the Nov. 9, 2020 deadline now have the two disposal options described below: self-haul drop-off and open burning.

Self-haul Tree Debris Drop-off

The self-haul drop-off site for derecho tree debris from unincorporated Linn County will close permanently at 7 p.m. on Sunday, May 16, 2021. 

Linn County opened the site, located at Wickiup Hill Learning Area, 10260 Morris Hills Road in Toddville, for residents of unincorporated Linn County to dispose of tree and other vegetative debris from the August 2020 derecho. Residents who live in unincorporated Linn County can continue to self-haul their vegetative derecho debris to this location and drop it off at no charge through May 16, 2021. Please note staff is not available to help unload debris.

To meet FEMA reimbursement requirements, this drop-off location is for tree and other vegetative derecho debris from property in unincorporated Linn County only; for this reason, pre-registration is required. To register your delivery, complete the online registration form or call 319-892-6000.

Self-haul Location Details

Wickiup Hill Learning Area
10260 Morris Hills Road, Toddville
(Continue straight at the end of Morris Hills Rd – do not enter the Wickiup Hill parking lot)
The site will be open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. through May 16, 2021 (including weekends).
This site will close permanently on May 16 at 7 p.m.

Self-haul Instructions

  • The self-haul site is for vegetative derecho storm debris from unincorporated Linn County residents only (trees, brush, vegetation).
  • This location is self-haul, drop-off only. Staff is not available to help unload debris.
  • Pre-registration is required. To register, complete the online registration form or call 319-892-6000. A Linn County staff member will complete the online form using information provided by the caller.
  • Tie down or cover your loads to prevent debris from falling out during transport.
  • Use caution around the heavy equipment at the drop-off sites.

Open Burning

The Linn County Board of Supervisors will allow residents who live in unincorporated Linn County within the half-mile buffer zone around the cities of Cedar Rapids, Marion, Hiawatha (zoned as Urban Services Residential - USR) to request a no fee registration to openly burn tree debris from the August derecho. Typically, open burning in this half-mile buffer zone is not allowed. To register an open burn, complete the online registration form or call 319-892-6000. It is important for residents to complete the open burn registration request so that the Linn County Sheriff’s Office and local fire departments are aware of the potential for open burning.

Residents in unincorporated Linn County outside the half-mile USR buffer zone should continue to obtain open burning permits through the regular online application portal from Linn County Public Health or by calling 319-892-6000.

Open Burning Rules

  • A landowner may only burn landscape waste from their own property; they cannot burn material transported to their property from another property. Only a municipal site operated by a local governmental entity may openly burn trees and tree trimmings originating from another property.
  • Landowners in the half-mile buffer zone may only burn vegetative debris derived from the August derecho.
  • Burning shall only occur from dawn to dusk. 
  • Burning shall not be conducted when wind speeds exceed 15 mph.
  • Secondary fuels including gasoline, diesel, or rubber tires shall not be used to ignite landscape waste.
  • Maximize the separation distance from the fire to any structure or combustible materials.  
  • Have a plan for fire extinguishment, such as a garden hose connected to a water outlet that is long enough to reach the fire.    
  • Other Linn County municipalities may have additional local restrictions more restrictive than Linn County rules. Please check with your local officials before starting an open burn.
  • Never leave a fire unattended, especially overnight. 

Home Repair Permits

To maintain safety, permits are required for the repair or reconstruction of buildings and other structures damaged by the August 10, 2020 derecho. However, the Linn County Board of Supervisors has waived building department permit fees through June 30, 2021. This waiver is for the unincorporated areas in Linn County and the cities that contract with Linn County (Alburnett, Bertram, Center Point, Lisbon, and Mount Vernon) for the repair and reconstruction of structures damaged during the August 10, 2020 storm. The fees waived include flood plain development permits, building permits (including electrical, plumbing, and mechanical permits) and zoning verifications. This waiver is retroactive to August 10, 2020. This waiver does not apply to building permit fees (including electrical, plumbing, or mechanical permits) for repair work already begun without a permit prior to the August 10, 2020 storm.  

Having the permit helps to ensure that contractors are registered with the state and the inspections verify repairs are done in compliance with minimum safety standards. Permits are also required when homeowners are completing their own repair work.

Apply for a permit.

Step-by-step application instructions (PDF).

Use of Contractors

  • Use caution when hiring unknown or out-of-state contractors.
  • Get a quote for the work.
  • Do not pay up front for repair services. 
  • Contact your insurance company for information regarding damage claims. 
  • Linn County Planning & Development staff can help property owners verify that contractors are registered, licensed, and/or insured to perform the work. Call us at 319-892-5130 or contact us by email.
  • Tips to avoid contractor fraud (PDF)
  • Victims of fraud, scams, or price-gouging can contact the Iowa Attorney General’s Office to file a consumer complaint.

Temporary Housing on Unincorporated Property

Per a resolution signed by the Board of Supervisors (PDF), residents of unincorporated Linn County who are unable to occupy their home due to storm damage may establish temporary housing on the same site as the storm-damaged home, or on a vacant parcel intended for construction of a new residence  under these conditions:

  • Temporary housing must be a mobile or manufactured home or self-contained recreational vehicle or camper
  • Home must have been placarded as “unable to occupy” (e.g. a yellow or red placard as used in the Linn County damage assessments, or similar placard as used by another government agency as part of the damage assessment process)
  • The parcel must be owned (deed or contract) by the occupants of the temporary housing unit
  • All permits must be obtained prior to placement of the temporary housing.
  • All permits for the repair of the storm-damaged home, or for construction of a new residence, must be obtained within 60 days of placement of the temporary housing unit. 
  • Temporary housing units must be removed and all utility hookups must be properly disconnected no later than 240 calendar days from August 21, 2020. A resident may request, and the Linn County Planning & Development Department may approve, a single extension not to exceed an additional 125 calendar days (for a maximum of 365 calendar days), should circumstances prevent the timely completion and occupancy of the storm-damaged home.
  • Email Linn County Planning & Development or call 319-892-5130 with questions.

FEMA Assistance

The deadline to apply for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Individual Assistance Program, which assisted Linn County residents affected by the August 10 storm, has passed. The deadline was November 2, 2020. 

How to Appeal a FEMA Decision

Iowa residents who sustained damage from the August 10 derecho may receive a letter from FEMA saying they are ineligible for disaster assistance and can appeal the decision if they disagree. All disaster assistance applicants have the right to appeal, and sometimes a quick fix is all that is needed. Read your letter carefully to clarify why your application was labeled "ineligible" or "incomplete." It will explain the application status and what you can do to respond.

Visit the FEMA website for more information.

Assistance Programs

The following resources may be able to provide assistance for those affected by the August 10, 2020 derecho. Contact your insurance company as a first step in seeking assistance. Some programs have eligibility requirements and may not be available for everyone. The Gazette is also tracking multiple resources on The Gazette Derecho Recovery Resources webpage.

Financial

Legal

Mental Health Resources

  • Foundation 2 Crisis Line: 319-362-2174
  • Abbe Warm Line: 844-775-WARM (9276)
  • Additional resources are available at linndisasterinfo.com/storm

State of Iowa Preliminary Damage Assessment Survey

Residents with internet access are encouraged to complete their own preliminary damage assessment survey using the online form created by the State of Iowa. This form does NOT take the place of an insurance claim. The report serves as another assessment tool to help Linn County and the State identify areas that sustained damage.

Report damage here.

Disaster Declaration

During their formal meeting on August 12, 2020, the Linn County Board of Supervisors signed a resolution declaring a formal local state of disaster emergency in response to the widespread severe storm that impacted Linn County on August 10, 2020. 

The resolution is a formal step that activates disaster response and recovery aspects of the Linn County comprehensive emergency plan and authorizes the Board of Supervisors to execute the expenditure of emergency funds from all available sources, invoke mutual aid agreements, and apply to the State of Iowa for assistance in the response to the storm damage. A local disaster emergency resolution is needed in the event expenses incurred during the response are reimbursable by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The Linn County Board of Supervisors requested Governor Reynolds to expedite her request to President Trump to declare Iowa a federal disaster to unlock additional federal assistance. The Board of Supervisors also formally requested Governor Reynolds to deploy the National Guard to Linn County to assist residents.