The Ottumwa Courier

February 4, 2011

Free snow; you haul

Blizzard cleanup a hefty challenge for southern Iowans

Courier Staff Writer

ELDON — At least, said the mayor, Eldonites are maintaining good cheer and their sense of humor during the blizzard cleanup.

“We’ve received a lot of compliments on how the streets look today,” said Mayor Shirley Stacey. “The biggest problem is where do you put these piles of snow? I wish I had the sign one [Eldon resident] put up in his front yard. It says, ‘Snow, free for the hauling.’ I wish I’d taken a picture.”

But evidence of their citizens’ general attitude is visible anyhow, she said.

“It was about as deep on city sidewalks as it was on the street, “Stacey said.” The city guys worked all night Tuesday, then they kept up with it on Wednesday; they haven’t complained. We couldn’t ask for a better group of guys, and we even had some volunteers come to the businesses [district] and help clear off the sidewalks. Cindy’s Cafe, the restaurant, was closed. But they went in anyway and made hot chocolate for everyone.”

The streets look good, she said, and people are getting out of their homes.

“We got it all cleaned out. There wasn’t anything open in Eldon [Wednesday],” she said, “and we’re back to business as usual today.”

In Agency, a single day made a big difference. City Hall stayed closed Wednesday according to Deputy City Clerk Simone Raymie, but the roads were so bad city employees couldn’t get in to put a sign up. Now that City Hall is open, she said she’s received a lot of calls, mostly asking when mail will be delivered and when garbage collection will be.

“The streets are clear now,” Raymie said. “Most of our [citizens and employees] couldn’t get out of [their homes] Wednesday. Our snowplow kind of got stuck for a while Wednesday morning, so it took a while to get the streets done, but they got it accomplished. He’s working on the parking [area] along the roads now. He’s trying to figure out where to put the snow because there’s so much of it.”

Eddyville wasn’t having that problem.

“We’ve got a couple places we pile it,” said Mayor John Johnston. “We had a lot of snow on them [streets], and they did a good job, and everything looks good. We didn’t have any trouble; no outages that I know of.”

But there were outages in southeast Iowa.

“Thankfully, we didn’t have any outages in Ottumwa throughout the storm,” said Alliant Energy spokesperson Justin Foss. “South of Ottumwa, we did have outages in Libertyville, and some serious outages in Davis County, 220 customers for about 10 hours.”

Alliant has 566 customers in Davis County. A quarter inch of ice formed on lines south of Ottumwa on Monday.

“So when the wind started Tuesday afternoon, that’s when we started to have problems,” Foss said. “Our lines are rated to handle half an inch of ice and 30 mph winds. But that’s brand new lines out of the box. It depends on the age of the line and the gusts in the area, and we were getting 50 mph gusts down there during the storm. The lines weren’t just swaying gently in the breeze, they were galloping, really moving.”

With the snow blowing in those gusts, it was impossible to see the power lines to get them fixed. One employee told Foss he couldn’t see his hand in front of his face and definitely couldn’t see the downed lines.

Foss said he’s impressed with the dedication the linemen have.

“Over near you, in your general area, an employee in Washington couldn’t make it in. He wanted to be there for [his line crew], so he had his neighbor drive him to work on a snowmobile.”

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