Walls of snow blew sideways across Ottumwa all day Thursday.
The snowstorm, dubbed “Draco” in reference to the scheming, nearly-white-haired antagonist in the Harry Potter films, blew winds upward of 50 mph and dumped 2 inches of snow on Ottumwa Wednesday night and throughout the day Thursday.
By mid-morning Thursday, approximately 1,200 customers in Wapello County were without power due to “galloping lines” from the high-speed winds.
Alliant spokesperson Ryan Stensland said Wapello County experienced widespread outages, with approximately 1,200 without power by 11 a.m. Thursday.
“In Ottumwa itself, you’re not sitting too bad,” Stensland said. “There [were] only about 20 without power there.”
It was in rural Wapello County that customers had trouble.
“We’re finding wind is causing some of those outages, and the snow is presenting a challenge to getting where the outages are occurring,” Stensland said.
Eddyville experienced the largest outage, with approximately 500 customers without power. Around 215 in Agency were without power, and in the rural area between Hedrick and Eddyville sat 200 customers without power.
The biggest problem in Wapello County was what Stensland calls “galloping lines,” where two lines start hitting each other as the wind starts blowing.
“That causes the breaker, like in a home, to open, and it automatically shuts itself down to protect the system,” he said. “They’re designed to restart themselves, but in some cases they’re not able to do that.”
Other areas saw downed lines and tree branches falling into lines, making this a typical combination of winter storm problems, he said.
“I think some people attribute the snow to causing the outages, but it’s not necessarily the snow itself, it’s more the wind,” he said. “Then the snow is presenting challenges of getting to where we need to get to.”
What was interesting about this storm was that while there were 1,200 without power, there were only 18 separate outages.
“What that’s saying is as we’re able to get to spots, make repairs and get customers back on, it will bring on a good number of customers at a time,” he said.
In ice storms when there are this number of customers without power, Stensland said the outages are usually spread out over around 300 separate locations.
“We don’t have the individual service outages with this storm as we’ve had with others,” he said. “We’re keeping our fingers crossed that that will continue and crews will be able to get where they need to get.”
Joshua Stevens, Wapello County emergency management coordinator, said the heads-up a few days in advance of the storm helped him plan for when the storm hit.
“The wind is probably the biggest issue right now because of power outages,” Stevens said. “Temperatures are in the upper 20s, but you get the wind chill in there and it’s in the single digits — that’s tough.”
While some vehicles were sliding around Thursday and several others slid off into ditches, there were very few accidents.
“This is nothing out of the ordinary for a blizzard,” Stevens said. “It’s the first snowfall of the year with a lot of wind that came quickly. With a few days warning, folks were prepared. And people are checking on their neighbors or folks who can’t get out, which is always good.”
Right now, Stevens said he has received no indication that any kind of emergency shelter is needed.
“I’ve touched base with mayors [throughout the county] and none have indicated a call for shelters,” Stevens said. “We partner closely with the Red Cross and home healthcare providers, but we’re not seeing any indication that we need to take those steps at this time.”
As of press time Thursday, all of Wapello County customers had power.
“Part of this is based on when the wind starts to go down and roads get cleared,” he said.
If customers do notice an outage, Stensland says they need to report it.
“Stay safe,” he said. “There may be a tree branch in the line, so don’t pull it down by yourself.”
National Weather Service meteorologist Craig Cogil previously told the Courier that the record for consecutive days with no measurable snow in Ottumwa was 353 days from Feb. 15, 1988 to Feb. 1, 1989, remembering that 1988 also had a leap day.
The last day of measurable snow this year was on March 4.
On Interstate 35 north of Williams Thursday morning, whiteout conditions resulted in a chain reaction pileup of 25 cars and semitrailers. One person was killed in the accident. Central Iowa bared the brunt of the storm, as 12 to 13 inches of snow piled up in Des Moines and winds blasted towns across the state.
Mindy Beerends, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Des Moines, said Ottumwa received a total of 2 inches of snow by mid-afternoon Thursday.
Ottumwa also received nearly 0.75 inches of rain going into Thursday morning.
Winds were strongest in central and eastern Iowa, with the heaviest snowfall in central and northeast Iowa, Beerends said.
“[Ottumwa’s] strongest gust was 60 mph, which occurred at 10:42 a.m. Thursday,” Beerends said. “[Gusts have] been pretty much in the 50 mph range since then.”
City receives 2 inches of snow, 50-60 mph winds cause power outages
Walls of snow blew sideways across Ottumwa all day Thursday.
- Ottumwa awarded as Tree City U.S.A. again OTTUMWA — Having big, beautiful trees throughout a community can help spruce up a city and make it more attractive to visitors. Ottumwa has shown a dedication to making the community more green and inviting, and the efforts have been recognized by th
Guiding our growth
OTTUMWA — An organization designed to help Ottumwa grow has found a new employee in Indiana. The Ottumwa Economic Development Corporation (OEDC) board has chosen Sharon Stroh as the group's new executive director. “We are confident she will hit the g
- Good fence irritates good neighbor DRAKESVILLE — For 82 years, Camp Wapello’s iconic entryway has welcomed people to peacefully coexist with nature. Now there’s a 400-foot barbed wire fence down the middle of the road. In February, Davis County Supervisors approved vacating of portion
- City Council approves sale of properties OTTUMWA — On Tuesday the Ottumwa City Council met for the last regularly scheduled meeting of April. Included in the agenda for the evening were several dispositions of city owned property. Structures and land located at 519 W. Fourth St., 723 E. Mar
- Where to play OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa Community School District wants to discuss moving to another athletic conference. Superintendent Davis Eidahl revealed that the district has been contacted by a smaller sports league, which has extended an invitation to join the
- Nice driver --- mean machine OTTUMWA --- Drivers sat at one end of their vehicles during the "pit party," meeting fans and signing autographs before the motorsport and monster truck exhibition at Bridge View Center this weekend. Monster truck driver Orville Hill let kids --- and
- Recycling in a garden OTTUMWA --- Parents will tell you: They hate to see kids waste food. A gardner named Scott Koepke feels the same way. “First, let’s get our food to people who are going to eat it,” he said. “It hurts me to see kids in the schools throw away an entire
- A bumper crop of potholes OTTUMWA — The nice weather has been putting the bad roads on display. Officials say good: It gives us a chance to fix them. “Every city is going through the same thing,” said Larry Seals, Ottumwa Public Works director. “It has been an unusual winter
- Home in a tent OTTUMWA -- As people live without shelter, they become desperate finding a place to sleep. The situation impacts more than just the community's homeless. "There is nowhere to put people who are homeless," said Mary Margaret Butler. "Nowhere." Ottumwa
- Ottumwa children visited by cartoon star OTTUMWA — Iowa Public Television is celebrating its 45-year anniversary this year by helping communities like Ottumwa educate young children before they get into a school setting. One of the programs they are using to help reach out to children is by
- More Ottumwa Headlines