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Winter roars in, local officials urge caution

December 21, 2012
By DAVID ALEXANDER - Staff Writer ( , Times-Republican

The year's first snow was, to put it mildly, fierce. With a blizzard sweeping over most of Iowa Wednesday night and into Thursday morning, many Marshalltown residents found themselves snowed in, without power or sliding off the road simply trying to get to work.

And while the city is doing its part to ensure the return of the status quo, area citizens should be aware of how to enable themselves to trudge through the worst of the storm. Marshall County Sheriff Ted Kamatchus said the sheriff's office responded to dozens of car crashes, none of which involved major injuries or deaths.

However, the sheriff's office issued a release advising against travel, saying the wind gave rise to white-outs that made driving too treacherous through Friday. Roads running east to west seem to be worse than those roads running north to south, according to the release.

Article Photos

Robert Thompson shovels a huge chunk of snow from his driveway at 10 W. Olive St. around noon on Thursday.

Lynn Couch, Public Works director, said all street equipment, including plows and salt trucks are functioning and will be out doing their work as long as necessary. Plows will remove snow from the city's main streets, snow route and those streets that feed directly into them first.

Couch warned drivers to avoid driving too close to plow and salt trucks. He said he didn't anticipate any problems.

"But every storm is different," he said.

Capt. Mike Hanken, with the Marshalltown Police Department, said drivers should only go out when necessary. If heading out, make sure to take a winter weather kit complete with blankets, a flashlight, water, snacks, a fully-charged cell phone and other items that would prove useful should a one get stranded.

"Stay at home until it's over," he said. "It's safer for everyone that way it doesn't take long for anyone to freeze."

To ensure the highest level service, Hanken urged citizens only to call 911 for emergencies. If everyone calls 911 because they are stuck in their driveway or other such things, it overburdens communication center dispatchers, making it more difficult for them to help those in dire need in a timely manner.

Marshall County Chief Deputy Burt Tecklenburg said citizens should be aware that police would be handling the emergent cases first. While it is not ideal, he said those stuck in a ditch or snowed in would likely see a delay in police arrival for serve due to the high volume of calls.

Tecklenburg said those traveling should make sure someone knows where you are going and which route they will be taking. Provide that person with a number they can call in case you don't arrive on time. Also, don't drive beyond your capabilities, he added.

"Just because you have four-wheel drive doesn't mean you can drive in anything," he said. "A lot of the vehicles we see in ditches have four-wheel drive."

All Marshall County Schools closed Thursday, and Consumer's Energy reported 50 customers in Marshall County were without power Thursday morning.

Ryan Stensland, spokesperson for Alliant Energy, said that roughly 900 customers in Marshalltown are still without power. He called the combination of wind and snow a "one-two punch." Along what Alliant designates the Highway 30 corridor, which includes Marshall, parts of Jasper and Tama Counties, close to 10,000 customers were without power Thursday.

"Crews are having a tough time out there," he said. "Those winds are really wreaking havoc on the power lines."

Alliant utility workers are working as quickly as possible, and he said he expects them to finish restoring service sometime Friday.

The Iowa National Guard has even activated roughly 80 soldiers across the state to aid in storm operations. The soldiers have been assigned to 10 Highway Assistance Teams along Interstates 35, 80 and 380 to assist the Iowa Department of Transportation, and are anticipated to remain on duty in that capacity through Friday.

Robert Thompson, 10 W. Olive St., took up a shovel at approximately noon Thursday. He didn't seem too happy about the task ahead of him.

"I don't like it," he said of the snow. "I'd rather have it rain. You don't have to shovel that."



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