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Local

SHERIFF: ‘Great leadership’ in county after derecho

Halferty points out the positives one week into storm recovery

Jacob Murphy, of Newton, rakes debris after a derecho swept through Jasper County and other parts of central and eastern Iowa on Aug. 10.
Jacob Murphy, of Newton, rakes debris after a derecho swept through Jasper County and other parts of central and eastern Iowa on Aug. 10.

Despite all the bad the derecho caused, Jasper County Sheriff John Halferty saw some silver linings.

It’s easy, Halferty said at the Tuesday, Aug. 18, county board of supervisors meeting, to criticize what could have been done, even though Iowans were given “little or no warning” about the impending wind gusts. One week later, the sheriff wanted to point out some “good things” that came out of the storm.

“We were able to utilize four of the six generators that we obtained from the military to help different communities,” Halferty said. “We were able to establish a command post (manned by Chief Deputy Duane Rozendaal) pretty quickly. We had some communication issues because some towers were affected.”

Even with those complications, officials developed a communications plan to handle the traffic between agencies. Typically, if a community is affected by storm damage, the neighboring communities can provide assistance. But the derecho’s long range caused massive, widespread damages to surrounding areas.

“We were all affected,” Halferty said. “… I do want to commend the City of Colfax, the City of Altoona and the state (Department of Transportation) for being a huge asset in the recovery efforts in the northwest part of the county. They provided equipment and manpower.”

Admittedly, there is “still a long ways to go” to fully recovery from this storm, which required all four dispatch positions to be filled for several hours. Nevertheless, Halferty commended Jasper County and its “great leadership” of local elected officials for helping those affected.

“We don’t always agree, but we came together,” Halferty told the board of supervisors. “The fact that we had no fatalities (in Jasper County) and, as far as I know, no major injuries — we may have had a broken bone or two — we’re pretty fortunate with this storm.

“If you’ve not seen some of the damage to the trees and houses and things, then you need to take a look around the county.”

Halferty also drew attention to the power companies like Alliant Energy and MidAmerican Energy, who both reported hundreds of thousands of their customers were without electricity.

“I don’t care what anybody says, the damage I’ve seen for them to get power restored in a week or less is nothing short of impressive,” Halferty said. “Kudos to them, too.”

Brandon Talsma, chair of the Jasper County Board of Supervisors, quipped that he will never complain about his electric bill again after this.

“I think it’s kind of been an outstanding time to watch citizens stepping up and helping each other out,” Talsma said. “… It was a trying time, but I think it’s kind of bringing out the best of us again.”

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com

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