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. 

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 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 or contact Waypoint. 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 documented these locations following the Nov. 9, 2020 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.

Open Burning

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) can request a no fee burn permit to openly burn tree debris from the August 2020 derecho. Typically, open burning in this half-mile buffer zone is not allowed; however, the Board of Supervisors has waived this restriction through June 30, 2022. To register an open burn, call Linn County Public Health at 319-892-6000. Residents are required 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 extended the waiver for building department permit fees through August 10, 2021. This waiver is for the unincorporated areas in Linn County and the cities that contract with Linn County (Alburnett, Bertram, Center Point, Ely, Lisbon, Mount Vernon, and Springville) for the repair and reconstruction of structures damaged during the August 10, 2020 derecho. 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.

Homeowner Permits

Contractor Permits

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.

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.



Mental Health Resources

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

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.