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Storms cause first UI power outage since October

BY CASSIDY RILEY | APRIL 18, 2013 5:00 AM

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The storm that struck the Iowa City area Wednesday caused strife for the University of Iowa campus and the city alike.

At approximately 11:10 a.m. Wednesday morning, Hillcrest Marketplace and the H400 wing of the building lost power after a transformer was struck by lightning.

“This kind of stuff happens in the spring fairly regularly,” said Carrie Kiser-Wacker, assistant to the senior director for UI Housing and Dining, said.

Kiser-Wacker said there was a UI electrical distribution team working on the situation right away. The power to those parts of the building was restored by approximately 12:10 p.m.

“Any warmers’ or any coolers’ doors were kept closed, so they maintained temperatures,” said Fred Kurt, the manager of Hillcrest Marketplace. “We did have to throw some food out that was in the service wells, but it didn’t amount to a whole lot.”

Kurt said it was only minutes after the power was restored they were able to begin serving students again.

“It is a major inconvenience when it’s during one of the major service times,” he said. “[But] I think about another 15 minutes after [the power was restored], everything was pretty much OK to go.”

The last time a UI building lost power was in October 2012. A cable short-circuited in a duct bank underground. Seashore Hall, Van Allen Hall, and Spence Labs were all affected.

Cambus services also encountered several inconveniences on the road Wednesday. 

“There was a few locations on our routes where the streets flooded,” Brian McClatchey, Cambus director, said. “We had a couple of cases where the driver was going down the street and water was actually coming in the front door.”

McClatchey said the primary way they dealt with the flooded streets was by having their drivers wait at stops for a few minutes to give storm drains a chance to catch up with the amount of water before driving into the streets.

“I don’t think we really had to wait more than five minutes, and it’s just to be safe,” he said. “So what we experienced was short delays on several routes.”

He said some of the problem areas on routes included Newton Road, parts of Dubuque Street, and the Hancher parking lot.

Flash flooding in Solon was also bad on Wednesday. Johnson County Emergency Management made sand bags available to Solon residents at Solon Public Works.

“When we were getting the rain, people were saying they were getting water in their basements,” said Susie Siddell, Solon city clerk.

Siddell said after flash flooding became a serious problem, the Public Works Director Scott Kleppe called Johnson County Emergency Management and asked for access to sand and bags. Volunteers at Solon Public Works participated in bagging the sand Wednesday afternoon.

Local businesses in downtown Iowa City also had concerns about the storm. Yotopia, 132 S Clinton St., closed in the morning and did not reopen until 2 p.m.. New Pioneer Food Co-op, 22 S Van Buren St., also closed from 11:45 a.m. until 1 p.m.

“We have flood doors we put on that go halfway up the doors, which of course prohibit anyone from coming in or going out,” said Jenifer Angerer, marketing manager of New Pioneer Food Co-op.

Angerer said they noticed Ralston Creek had risen to the level of the parking lot and they didn’t want to risk a flood. New Pioneer Co-op hasn’t flooded since 1993 because of its flood doors and keeping a close eye on the creek level.

“We keep a pretty close eye [on the creek],” she said.  “We know how fast it’s going to rise and come up over the banks. Unfortunately, experience has gained us that knowledge.”


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