The Ottumwa Courier

May 21, 2013

Roaring winds Southeast Iowa in clean-up mode after storm passes through

By MARK NEWMAN
Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — Work crews in and around Wapello County put in a lot of hours. And they were ready to do it again.

“We had the storms roll through there last night,” said Ryan Stensland, a spokesman for Alliant Energy. “Down in southeast part of the state, we had several thousand customers that lost power. At the peak of the storm, across Iowa, we had 40,000 customers without power.”

On Monday, he said that line workers had spent the night keeping up with damage. But another crew worked the morning, getting nearly everyone back on line. Nearly as important, however, is what that second crew permitted.

“Regulations allow line crews to work 16 hours before they must have eight hours for rest,” Stensland said.

So while the second crew was finishing up on Monday, that first crew was just coming on duty.

“Now, they’re getting ready for round two; if it happens, they’re ready to go,” he said Monday afternoon.

Wapello County didn’t get too much damage, said Josh Stevens, county emergency management coordinator. He picked up scanner traffic indicating a semi-truck blown over on Highway 34 a couple miles east of Ottumwa. And a pole barn was lifted up and moved by wind near Eldon.

“A farm just across the Eldon Bridge,” confirmed Eldon Mayor Shirley Stacey. “His barn got picked up off the foundation and then put down at the edge of the highway. One of our fire personnel was coming into town and saw it moving.”

Stacey received reports of strips of metal flying around. Shirly said with the noise and commotion, it’s no wonder the firefighter didn’t notice serious damage to her car until she made it to town.

“What are you thinking,” Shirly asked rhetorically, “when you see a whole building coming at you?”

That one farm suffered around $100,000 in damage, the mayor estimated. Other damage in town was less expensive but still troublesome.

“We look bad. Trees down, tree limbs and twigs everywhere. In our cemetery, we had two large oak trees torn out by the roots. They were huge, and this is Memorial Day weekend. I’ve got a tree service over there now. “

Though no one mentioned tornadoes, she said, those residents where the wind was fiercest described hearing a roar.

Power lines in and around Sigourney were reported as actually snapping. Some buildings reported damage. In Albia, trees were damaged, too, with 65 mph gusts snapping off branches up to 3 inches thick.

To see reporter Mark Newman's Twitter feed, go to @couriermark

BREAKOUT BOX

If your power goes out during this summer storm season, give your power company a call.

Ryan Stensland, spokesman for Alliant Energy, said customers should not feel as though they are bothering anyone. The animated system does a great job in helping crews get the lights back on.

Sunday night, Stensland’s power went out, and he called the automated number. He said another person who calls the automated number is Alliant’s president. Don’t assume a neighbor called, Stensland stressed. In fact, call even if you know for certain that a neighbor called.

“When you call in, it sends that information directly out to the field, which helps them pinpoint the outage,” he said.

Alliant number for power outages: 1-877-740-5050