Trump does not tour derecho damage or meet with affected Iowans during Cedar Rapids visit

Some Cedar Rapids residents were disappointed that the president didn’t meet with Iowans affected by the derecho or aid in on-the-ground recovery, but others were hopeful that the visit more than a week after the storm will put a spotlight on eastern Iowa.


Jeff Sigmund

City workers work to remove downed trees that took down power lines and landed on a car on Linn Blvd SE. As seen on Friday, Aug. 14, 2020.

Caleb McCullough, Summer Editor

Iowans were still dealing with the effects of last Monday’s storm when President Trump arrived in Cedar Rapids for a briefing on the derecho disaster recovery: cutting trees, handing out food to people in need, and some still without power sat outside their homes to avoid the heat. 

Trump touched down in Cedar Rapids around 11:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, joined by Gov. Kim Reynolds, Republican Sens. Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley, and Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart for a private round-table discussion on the recovery efforts.

“Iowans have always been resilient and strong and tough, and great people,” Trump said. “From the depths of this grave hardship we will rebuild even stronger than before.”

Elsewhere in Cedar Rapids, some people were disappointed that Trump didn’t tour storm damage, assist in cleanup efforts, or meet with Iowans affected by the derecho.

The president partially approved Reynolds’ disaster declaration on Monday requesting $4 billion in aid, but the declaration lacks individual assistance, which would provide funds and resources to people with private property damage.

At the briefing, Hart urged Trump to include individual assistance in the disaster declaration. This provision would allow for help with tree removal, replacing spoiled food, and other financial losses not covered by home insurance, Hart said. 

George Woodson, 73, said not seeing Trump assisting in recovery efforts gives him the impression that Trump doesn’t care about helping people whose lives were impacted by the storm. Woodson’s home hadn’t had power restored by the time of Trump’s visit, but he was able to use a generator to provide some electricity.

“I just figure when he comes, all the work’s going to come to a halt because they got to clear everything out for him,” Woodson said. “Instead of giving him a pair of gloves and letting him go to work.”

George and Judy Woodson pose for a portrait with their dog, Roxy, on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020 at their residence in Cedar Rapids. With a backup generator providing them power, “we’re one of the fortunate ones,” Judy Woodson said. “We got a lot of damage to the garage in the back and the deck, that’s minor, and the chimney, but we’re better than most.” After approving a federal disaster declaration to assist with recovery efforts on Monday, President Donald Trump made a visit to Cedar Rapids to speak with Iowa leaders at a roundtable briefing. (Hannah Kinson/The Daily Iowan) (Hannah Kinson)

Other residents said the community had already accomplished the lion’s share of the cleanup, and they would have liked to see Trump’s arrival and national relief come to the city sooner. 

“It was worse, and he doesn’t get to see all the disaster it really was,” Sherri O’Connor, 46, said. 

O’Connor’s home was also still without power around noon on Tuesday, and she wasn’t aware of the president’s visit or details of the federal disaster declaration because she does not have access to TV or internet. 

“We haven’t heard anything of how it was going to get here or who can help, without TV or nothing, we don’t have access to know what’s even going on,” she said about the federal disaster funding. 

Isaiah Morgan, Rylee Vandresar, and Sherri O’Connor pose for a portrait on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020 in Cedar Rapids. In response to President Donald Trump’s visit to Cedar Rapids to speak with Iowa leaders at a roundtable briefing, O’Connor said, “that would be very nice to see [elected officials] coming out and helping, governors, you know, all of them, they should be out here.” (Hannah Kinson/The Daily Iowan) (Hannah Kinson)
Still, others in Cedar Rapids interviewed by The Daily Iowan were appreciative of Trump’s visit, hoping the news would put a spotlight on Iowa’s situation and bring national attention and help. 

At an apartment complex in the Cedar Hills neighborhood, the principal of Hoover Elementary School and other staff members set up a food table for people in the area who lost reliable shelter and food sources from the storm. 

Sandrine Furaha, 17, was helping with the efforts and said the president’s visit was relieving and showed people are paying attention to the community’s struggles. 

“At the beginning of this we weren’t getting much news coverage that we needed for our state and Cedar Rapids,” she said. “But the fact that he came here for us, it just shows how much that they see us, and that we are cared for, and we don’t need to worry.”

Sadrine Furaha poses for a portrait on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020 outside her apartment complex in Cedar Rapids. While assisting volunteers from the local school district with handing out food and other supplies to the community, Furaha said what is lacking the most with resources is shelter and food. “We have been getting in a lot of food, but it’s going to be needed every day because most of our families here they have a lot of kids and a lot of children,” said Furaha. “One family does take like a lot of food in and I know our community has been doing a great job with that, but I just think we’re still going to need more food as the days go on.” (Hannah Kinson/The Daily Iowan) (Hannah Kinson)

Jordan Caviness, 33, was standing outside Mr. B’s Bar and Sam’s Pizza, a restaurant he owns, handing out free hot dogs to community members during the time of Trump’s visit. Caviness said there may be people in and around Iowa who could help but don’t know the full extent of the damage, and the news of the president’s visit can help shed light on that. 

A portion of the briefing was broadcasted live on Twitter from the White House and Trump’s accounts. Trump also shared tweets from Reynolds and Grassley about his visit. 

“Regardless of what people’s opinions are, whether they like or dislike the president, any time we can have that figure in town locally, it’s an important deal,” he said. “… and getting more publicity and more attention on the issues here will help bring in more aid and more assistance for everyone.”


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