Blizzard causes problems, but not as bad as feared
by Gregory R. Norfleet · News · January 02, 2013

A couple of blocks on North Fifth Street lost power for about four hours when a tree fell on electric lines during the Wednesday-Thursday blizzard, and while rain that froze into ice made roads harder to manage, the overall storm effects did not come close to what people feared.

Public works Director Matt Goodale issued a city emergency than ran from 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 19, through 6 a.m. Friday, Dec. 21, to keep streets clear of parked cars for plowing.

From six to 15 inches of snow was expected here from Winter Storm Draco. But the rain lasted longer than expected, and the wet ground melted much of the snow that followed. The snow was expected to begin about 6 p.m. Dec. 19, but yards did not begin to turn white until nearly 9 p.m. and by Thursday morning only a couple of inches had fallen.

Goodale estimated 5 to 6 inches actually fell.

However, sustained winds of 30 to 40 miles per hour, gusts of nearly 50 miles per hour and temperatures in the teens turned roads into sheets of ice. West Branch Fire Chief Kevin Stoolman said a semi-tractor trailer rolled over on Interstate 80 and a car went into the ditch on Herbert Hoover Highway, both on Wednesday night.

“It was pretty uneventful,” he said. “(Those were) a couple of minor calls. It wasn’t as bad as they said it would be, so I’m happy with that.”

No one was injured in those accidents, he said.

By Thursday morning, the Iowa State Patrol issued a tow ban for Johnson County. By Thursday afternoon, Cedar County was included.

Hoover National Historic Site Facilities Manager Mark Denker said the first snowfall “certainly tested our equipment.”

“Our equipment ran very well,” he said. “Interestingly enough, the snow we did get was really wet on bottom and that slowed us down quite a bit. Other than that, it was like a normal snowfall.”

Still, both the Hoover Park and Hoover Presidential Library-Museum closed on Thursday. Friday, they opened at 11 a.m., two hours later than usual.

Denker said the weight of snow and ice on trees brought down “quite a few limbs, but nothing significant.”

“We have a very dedicated maintenance staff who once again did a phenomenal job, coming in early and working when the park was closed to get the job done,” he said.

Goodale said the tree on North Fifth was one of two that fell, with the second on North Downey.

“We were going to take that one out anyway,” he said of the tree on Downey.

Drifting snow was the primary problem, he said, as it buried ice underneath. The public works department went through about 54 tons of salt and sand and about 600 gallons of salt brine.

“That’s not a huge amount,” Goodale said. “But that’s quite a bit for one snowstorm. It’s an extra truckload for each of the three trucks, which is about an extra 20 tons compared to a normal storm.”

The worst sections of town were on the outskirts, he said, like Main Street on the west side, Greenview and County Line Road.

“In town, everybody seemed to get around OK,” he said.

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