Storm ice-olates Traer
Ice storm knocks out power, shuts down schools
The most welcome aspect of winter for many people in Iowa is when it at long last comes to an end but that was hardly the case for Traer and its surrounding communities last week as those areas were battered by the recent ice storm.
While the upper Midwest including the top tier of Iowa’s northern counties received up to a foot of snow from the two day storm which began on Wednesday, Feb. 22, the bulk of precipitation in Tama County fell in the form of sleet and freezing rain.
Ice accumulations of around two-tenths of an inch were generally observed in the Traer-Dysart area with 0.15 inches of ice recorded by a trained National Weather Service observer near Reinbeck.
Tama-Grundy’s weather reporter Randy Cooper officially counted 0.39 inches of rain on Wednesday in Toledo.
With travel forecast to be significantly disrupted due to icing, both the North Tama and Union school districts canceled school on Wednesday with Union electing to do so again on Thursday. (School on Thursday had already been canceled earlier in the week at North Tama due to the funeral of beloved local firefighter Nick Riley.)
Ice buildup on trees and power lines proved particularly acute in the areas in and around Traer serviced by Traer Municipal Utilities (TMU) which led to power outages beginning Wednesday afternoon and lasting through the day Thursday.
“Traer Municipal Utilities’ electric service area was affected by freezing rain on [February 22] that began to build up on wires and trees,” TMU General Manager Jim Currens told the Telegraph in an email. “At 3:10 in the afternoon tree branches dropped from the added weight of the ice buildup into primary distribution lines. This caused an electricity outage to all customers.”
While service was restored to the majority of TMU’s customers in the town of Traer in a matter of minutes, Currens said, rural customers continued to report no service.
“Attempts to restore electric service to [the rural areas] was a losing battle as the ice was increasing,” Currens continued. “There were approximately 100 rural customers over a 22-mile area without power overnight [February 22-23].”
Due to the difficulty restoring rural power, TMU elected to call in mutual aid from Cedar Falls Municipal Utilities. Electric service was restored to all customers by roughly 8 p.m. on Thursday.
Rural customers riding out the storm without power included Carol Boyce who lives northeast of Traer on Highway D65 — past Geneseo School and east of Highway 21.
“When we called [TMU] to report the outage on Wednesday, we were impressed with how kind and understanding the person on the other line was. She assured us it was being worked on, and it did come back on after an hour,” Boyce told the Telegraph. “When we called again on Thursday to report the outage that lasted 18 hours, again we were treated with respect and understanding. We were told two other crews had been called in to help, so we felt reassured everything was being done to help us get electricity again.”
By the time her power was restored Thursday evening, Boyce said the temperature inside her home was 52 degrees. But rather than shivering in boredom during the power outage, Boyce and her family elected to treat the experience as if they were winter camping.
“We wore two pairs of socks, long underwear, sweatshirts, fleece jackets, our winter coats, and stocking caps. We read books by flashlight and a headlamp – we were actually quite comfortable. Our only worry was if the temperature went too low, whether we needed to drain the water so the pipes didn’t freeze.”
Boyce said some caring neighbors checked in on her and her family which also helped to pass the time.
“We felt a camaraderie with those who live in our neighborhood,” Boyce said before adding, “[But] it was [also] a time for reflection and feeling grateful when considering others in the world who have lost their homes to earthquakes and war.”
While the weather warmed up significantly over the weekend – breaking 50 degrees Sunday – broken tree limbs shellacked in thick ice could still be observed all around the towns of Traer and Dysart and the surrounding rural communities on Friday.
Thankfully, accidents due to icy roads were kept to a minimum during the storm, according to Chief Deputy Joe Quandt with the Tama County Sheriff’s Office.
“There were only a couple of crash reports and a couple of vehicles that slid into the ditch,” Deputy Quandt said in an email.
Looking ahead at the 10-day forecast, Iowans can expect to leave the ice behind and ready themselves for spring mud.
Just calling it like icy it.