After 11 am a week ago Monday, August 10, the County of Linn in Iowa and its main city Cedar Rapids were turned into a technological wasteland as a line of storms, called a derecho, swept through bringing with them Category 2 hurricane-force winds of more than 100 mph. It will take some time before the area recovers.
The storms, which damage areas in Illinois and Indiana, a well as Iowa, flattened 10s of millions of acres of crops, twisted grain bins, damaged homes and knocked out power to a million people. Estimates say the storms affected an area 50 miles wide and 750 miles long.,
In Iowa, where the FCC activated its Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS) for 24 counties, 219 or 12.4 percent of the cell sites were knocked out of service by the storms. Additionally, three FM radio stations and one AM radio station (KGRN) were reported being out of service (KCCK, KRQC-LP, KRTI).
Linn County was the hardest hit area with 66 towers knocked out of service, of which two were damaged, 15 had backhaul issues and 44 lost power. Cedar Rapids, a city of 130,000 in Linn County, had power knocked out to virtually all its residents.
“Dispatches from Cedar Rapids reveal a disaster zone, with damage to most homes and businesses, some severe; trees and wires down everywhere; roads blocked and hospitals overrun,” according to the Washington Post.
Ben Kaplin, a Cedar Rapids resident, wrote that “It’s worse in Cedar Rapids than you know,” in an online post on the Medium.
“Restoring power across the grid will take weeks,” according to Kaplin. “Lines at gas stations outside of town with power were hours long. Chainsaws are sold out. Generators are sold out. Many gas stations sold out of gas. Cell service and LTE is spotty or nonexistent. You can’t call 911. No internet means no debit cards or credit cards or ATMs. All banks are closed.”
As of, Aug. 16, the number of cell sites out of service in Iowa had been reduced to 57 or 2.7 percent of the affected area. But wight FM radio stations (up from three) are still out of service and two AM radio stations are not transmitting. And 75,000 were without power across the state. In Linn Country, 19 cell sites were still out of service and 42,000 were without power.