Archive for Thursday, January 13, 2005

Baldwin survives nasty wintry mix

January 13, 2005

When all was said and done, Baldwin City fared much better through the ice storm of 2005 compared to the one that kept much of the city in the dark for days in 2002.

There were several outages last Tuesday when the storm was at its height, but those were corrected fairly quickly and there were only scattered outages last Wednesday. But, as the thawing occurred Saturday, tree limbs started to fall again, which knocked power out to east Baldwin for four to five hours.

"I thought we fared pretty well," said City Administrator Jeff Dingman. "I thought the crews did well. We had some outages Saturday and one that lasted pretty long. It was a quick fix once we found it.

"It was a line cross connect with a tree limb," said Dingman, adding that it was on Third Street. "It was a tiny little branch."

Weather conditions Thursday brought an extra day of Christmas vacation for students in the Baldwin school district who were scheduled to return. But, it was back to school on Friday.

However, there was yet another day of vacation when another round of freezing rain overnight Tuesday and Wednesday morning caused school officials to again cancel school. Roads, especially those in the country, were treacherous.

Although power outages in Baldwin as a result of the ice storm had curtailed last Thursday, the city was still without KCPL power and relying on the new city power plant. Utility director Terry McKinney said the city had weathered this year's ice storm much better than the one that hit in 2002.

"We were much better prepared," said McKinney. "There are two big reasons for that. One, our infrastructure is in much better shape. We've replaced a lot of lines and don't have the old brittle ones. The other is we've done a lot better job with tree trimming since the last storm to keep limbs away from the lines."

Mayor Ken Hayes said there was no comparison between the city's abilities to handle the ice today as opposed to three years ago. Everything was in much better shape and that included the ability of the new city power plant to carry the whole electrical load after KCPL curtailed the city.

"Absolutely," said Hayes. "First, we had enough reliable capacity to generate for the entire city. We were able to sever our ties with KCPL before a loss occurred. Power lines and trees to do not go together and that will always be a problem. But, I will point out that we had Baldwin residents back on line faster than other communities around the area.

"Our entire electrical infrastructure was in much better shape than in 2002," he said.

McKinney also said that there was another difference in the storm of 2005 compared to 2002.

"We didn't have the same amount of ice," he said. "Any build up of ice is bad, but it wasn't nearly as thick as three years ago."

Still, that ice brought tree limbs and even trees down all over the city. City crews and residents began battling those Thursday and the clean up will continue for some time. Residents can put the limbs in the right of way near the street and city crews will pick them up.

"Just drag them out to the right of way," said Dingman. "Public works will be collecting the tree limbs. They are going to pick up everything.

"They'll start with the north-south streets, then the east-west streets and then start all over," he said. "They've been doing that all along if they haven't been plowing or treating streets."

The combination of ice, sleet and snow that fell didn't cause any major problems with the streets in Baldwin City. They were pretreated heading into the storm and crews kept after them throughout the storm. The street crews got another chance to work their magic Wednesday with the return of even more freezing rain.

Another group that responded to the emergency were fire fighters for the Baldwin City Fire Department. Five of them -- Capt. Mike Quick, Billy Winegar, Michelle Egler, Shaun Davis and Tim DeMott -- took turns manning the firehouse for 24-hour coverage. The volunteer department responded to six calls during the storm.

"They basically stayed at the fire house from 4 p.m. Tuesday to 6 p.m. Wednesday," said Fire Chief Allen Craig. "I just wanted people to know that although it's a volunteer fire department, we've got dedicated people that stayed with it around the clock."

Baldwin police were also credited with their part during the wintry mess.

"I think our emergency personnel performed will during the storm," said Hayes.

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