The Ottumwa Courier

January 6, 2014

Arctic air ices Ottumwa

Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — How cold was it in Ottumwa on Monday? Cold enough for water to freeze before it hit the ground.

You’ve probably seen the videos online where someone takes hot water and tosses it into the air. If conditions are right, the water turns to ice before hitting the ground, creating an instant snowfall.

The Courier’s parking lot was the test ground as reporter Josh Vardaman took a mug of hot water and threw it into the air. Not all of it froze, but enough did to create an impressive cloud of ice crystals.

That wasn’t the only unusual weather phenomenon you could spot Monday. Numerous people throughout the state photographed “sun dogs,” where ice crystals in the atmosphere reflect light in such a way as to make it look like there are two smaller suns flanking the sunrise or sunset.

The bitter cold led Bridge City Sanitation to halt collection of trash and recycling partway through the morning. Locations that weren’t collected Monday should be picked up today.

Monday’s official low was -13 according to the National Weather Service. The air stalled out at that point from about 7-8 a.m. It began a slow climb afterwards, with temperatures still well below zero at noon.

Temperatures never did make it above zero and aren’t expected to do so until later today. The forecast high for today is only 10. Forecasters believe seasonal temperatures in the 30s will return by the end of the work week.

The weather is being blamed for sporadic power outages in Iowa. About 100 customers in Exline were left without power Sunday night.

Alliant Energy Spokesman Justin Foss said the company still isn’t quite sure what caused the outage. The best guess is that the wind caught a couple lines just right, closing a circuit and tripping a breaker in the system.

He said power was out for about an hour while crews visually inspected the lines to make sure there wasn’t a major problem.

Like the power crews, firefighters can’t decide whether to go out on calls in this weather. And when weather gets this cold, fires from things like portable heaters can be a real risk.

Firefighters have an additional concern when temperatures drop this low. It doesn’t take long for the water they use to put out a fire to make the area nearby an ice rink. If necessary, they can call public works to spread some sand on the ice, but it still makes for a difficult situation.

Ottumwa Fire Chief Tony Miller said that hadn’t happened as of noon Monday, and he was happy to kep it that way.

“Be smart when you use portable heaters,” he said, “and don’t start anything that produces carbon monoxide.”

To see the video of water turning into ice in mid-air, visit