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Cold weather striking UI campus, Iowa livestock

BY REBECCA MORIN | JANUARY 23, 2013 5:00 AM

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Bundled in coats, boots, and hats, students are trying to protect themselves from the extreme weather that welcomed them back to class.

State climatologist Harry Hillaker said cold air flowing from the northwest to southeast has caused a spell of subfreezing temperature.

“The cold air flow is common for our region, but recently it has been more pronounced into and across Iowa,” he said.

Temperatures reached as low as 2 below 0 in Iowa City Tuesday. The last time temperatures reached this low was in February 2011, when the low was 17 degrees below 0. However, this winter has been warmer than usual overall.

“For the most part, this winter has been warmer, but the last few days have been cold,” Hillaker said. “Not only have they been cold, but the wind has been more severe.”

University of Iowa officials encourage students to stay covered during this weather, especially with classes starting back up this week. They also advise students living in the residence halls to keep their rooms warm.

“The main thing is to make sure windows stay closed; if it is open, it can freeze the pipes,” UI Housing and Dining Director Von Stange said. “If students do decide to open a window, they should continue to have the heat on.”

Students are also discouraged from turning on the air conditioner because the compressor could break.

Over winter break, a pipe broke in Slater Hall, causing floors eight and below to flood. Although the source of the break is unknown, Stange believed that it likely could have been because of an open window.

Not only has the weather affected students and the university, it has also taken on local farmers. Farmers have had to take extra measures to protect their cattle from the severe weather.

“First thing I do when weather is extreme is to make sure cows are well-fed, and the second thing is to make sure the cows have good access to water,” local farmer Steve Swenka said.

Keeping livestock hydrated is just as important as feed, especially during this season. However, preserving access to water is more difficult with weather this extreme, he said.

“The challenge is to keep water open and working,” said Greg Brenneman, an agriculture and bio-systems engineering specialist of the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

The extreme weather could cause lakes or ponds to freeze, which could dehydrate livestock if that is their only water source.

“If the pond or creek is frozen, we have to ax a hole into the ice,” Swenka said. “The water is just as important as the feed.”

Although livestock have grown thick coats to protect them through winter, experts say some measure of shelter should also be provided to keep livestock out of the weather or at least out of the wind.

“Farmers should provide some type of windbreak using hay bales or a wall,” said Denise Schwab, a beef specialist of the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

Even with extra precautions taken throughout Iowa City during the weather, there are hopes that this spell will end soon.

Hillaker said that the foreseeable future shouldn’t be quite as cold or windy. However in a longer range view, it will continue to be on the colder side of normal.

“Perhaps next week it will snow, but it will definitely be cooler than usual for this time of year,” he said.


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