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Ice storm torments UI students

BY JORDAN FRIES | JANUARY 21, 2010 7:30 AM

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Alyssa Nicolai and Rachel Lukas smiled as they watched students slip and slide their way across the sidewalks near Burge Hall on Wednesday morning.

Sitting in their fifth-floor dorm room, the UI freshmen roommates said it was easy to laugh at the cluster of students failing to maintain their balance on the virtual skating rink below.

But when the reality set in that UI officials would not cancel classes despite nearly half-an-inch of ice on the ground, the mood on campus quickly shifted from amusement to annoyance.

“It was definitely difficult for me to get out of my driveway to class,” said UI sophomore Kahle Novak. “I think everyone would have been safer had classes been nixed for the day.”

At least seven car collisions were reported between 8 and 10 a.m., according to Iowa City police Sgt. Denise Brotherton. Around half of those involved numerous vehicles.

According to the National Weather Service, at that time, the ice storm was at its apex.

“Luckily, these were mostly just minor fender-benders when people were going to work,” Brotherton said. “Once the city began to put sand on the streets and people got where they were going, accidents slowed down significantly.”



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The UI was the only school in the Iowa City area to remain open, but university spokesman Tom Moore said that safety was still the main priority, citing a relatively low number of traffic accidents and serious falls in the area.

“There was a period when it was pretty icy, but the city had crews on the streets at 7 a.m. in anticipation,” Moore said. “It’s a judgment call, and we decided the situation wasn’t serious.”

Rick Fosse, the director of Iowa City’s Public Works, said he pulled garbage trucks off the streets and halted public transit on Wednesday morning for safety reasons.

More than 2,000 local citizens were without power for part of the day, according to MidAmerican Energy.

University officials were also forced to cancel a flu clinic and shut down the UI Hospitals and Clinics QuickCare locations near Sycamore Mall and in North Liberty.

Fosse credits city workers for being prepared to handle the frozen precipitation, which officials expect will begin to fade this morning.

“City workers have done a great job of cleaning up the streets in between snow storms to be able to handle something like this,” Fosse said. “We’re also focusing on preventing ice blockages at places such as Ralston Creek once the weather warms up.”

Fosse said more than 50 percent of the city’s sand supply, used to make streets and sidewalks safer for travel, was exhausted before Wednesday’s storm.

Though he wasn’t certain how much sand the city used on Wednesday, Fosse said he believes the city still has a “good supply” in case the ice strikes again.

But the sand did little to comfort students like UI freshman Erica Recker, who trudged over sidewalks blanketed with fresh ice to arrive on time for a morning science lab.

When she got there, a TA informed her the professor was unable to make it out of his driveway. The class was canceled.

“Sometimes, I wonder why I go to school in Iowa,” Recker said. “On days like this, it’s difficult to get out of bed.”


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