Archive for Wednesday, February 6, 2002

Devastating storm smacks area

February 6, 2002

A pile of branches continued to pile up near the side of the street as Harold Myers attempted to clean up his daughter's yard Friday afternoon.

Myers spent the afternoon with a saw in hand, cutting up large limbs of a Chinese Elm that fell because of the heavy layer of ice left on the tree from the two-day ice storm last week.

"I'm helping my daughter and son-in-law while they're at work," he said. "I've been here about an hour so far."

Myers was just one of many people taking advantage of a warm day Friday and cleaning up what last week's winter storm left behind.

Freezing rain and sleet began to fall last Tuesday evening and did not let up until Thursday leaving Baldwin looking like a winter wonderland.

But in its wake, the ice storm also left homes and businesses without electricity, branches, limbs and even whole trees scattered about yards and ice covered streets, sidewalks and driveways.

Baldwin schools and many businesses were closed because of the severity of the weather.

City Administrator Larry Paine said city crews worked all week trying to keep up with the storm.

"We were putting people out as quickly as we could," he said.

Road crews were some of the first city workers out as they attempted to clear city streets, he said.

"We sent crews home early Wednesday afternoon with the intent of bringing them back later in the evening," he said.

The crews were kept busy, he said, plowing and sanding streets around town until the freezing rain and sleet had stopped.

Electric crews were also kept busy throughout the storm.

Baldwin lost electricity Wednesday evening, Paine said, and some parts of the city were not restored until Thursday night even though electric crews worked non-stop. From there, outages were spotty around town, mostly because of lines being down.

"From Wednesday night, we started the process of bringing the engines (at the city power plant) on and trying to bring up customers," he said. "We had a dickens of a time doing that because ice would get on some of the lines."

Crews also worked at repairing lines to individual houses that were down because of ice or tree limbs, Paine said.

A majority of calls the Baldwin City Police Department received Wednesday and Thursday were about electric lines, officer Bill Dempsey said.

"Most of the calls that came in were limbs on wires, meters pulled off houses, electric lines down and fires in trees because of fallen electric lines," he said. "It was just one thing after another."

Because there were so many calls, Dempsey said the department and city crews had to prioritize the problems, but eventually everyone was checked.

"We went out and touched base with them and made sure they had power and everything," he said. "People seemed pretty appreciative."

Baldwin residents also lost cable when the electricity went out, said Mediacom customer service supervisor Paula Andrews.

"We actually had service, but we couldn't get it here because of the power," Andrews said. "But as soon as power was restored, so was the cable."

The only residents, she said, that did not have cable when the power was restored, were the houses with lines down.

Cable crews from as far away as Springfield and Columbia, Mo., helped to restore cable to individual residences, she said.

"They worked daylight to dark," Andrews said. "To date, everything that has been reported has been completed in Baldwin."

But the ice affected more than just the cable and electric lines. Branches and limbs snapped and fell under the weight of the 1-inch coating of ice on trees, leaving piles of debris around town.

But Paine said there will be some help available to residents in getting rid of the branches and limbs.

The city will pick up tree debris that is piled along the curb or street right-of-way until March 1. Debris can also be taken to the wastewater treatment plant.

Paine said the city will not take care of branches left by a professional tree trimmer.

"If people have a tree trimmer out, we expect them to take care of their own problem," he said.

The ice storm left a lot of damage to be repaired around Baldwin, Paine said, that will come at a cost.

As of Friday, he said damage to the city has been estimated at $82,000, which includes electric line response and repair, ice removal, material, equipment, debris removal for the next three weeks and city crew overtime.

But Baldwin is hoping to become eligible for a Presidential Declaration, he said, which would allow for 75 percent reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and 10 percent reimbursement from the state.

"But there are still a number of things we have to do as a staff to detail the expenses occurred," he said.

The situation could have been worse in Baldwin than what it was, Paine said, without the work of the city crews.

"They did an excellent job," he said. "They did an exemplary job under the circumstances. These guys were working in very adverse weather.

"And I know a lot of people called in and expressed their appreciation for the work they did. They said, 'Thank you. Thank you for doing the extra effort,'" he said. "We appreciate that. The whole staff appreciates that."

More stories and photos of the ice storm, along with other Baldwin activities and events, can be found in the print edition of this week's Signal.

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