DOT camera near Estherville.

The approaching winter storm threatens to dump heavy snow and a glaze of ice on wide areas of northern Iowa, as utility companies are fanning out emergency repair teams, anticipating potential power outages.

Geoff  Greenwood, spokesman for Des Moines-based MidAmerican Energy, says like the Boy Scouts, they strive to be prepared.
“We’re very concerned about the prospect for ice to build-up on our overhead lines, as well as ice building up on trees,” Greenwood says. “Additionally, the National Weather Service is calling for winds to pick up after the ice event and that concerns us even more.”

He explains why the winds, which forecasters say may be gusting up to 50 miles an hour, are such a subject of worry.
“If we get an ice build-up on an overhead line, and then it starts to get windy, that can create lift on that overhead line and the line can start to bounce,” Greenwood says. “When it starts to bounce, it increases its frequency of bouncing to the point of galloping, and when it’s galloping, it’s really bouncing at a high rate and it can really stress out that line. It can also put stress on the pole and other equipment.”

Blizzard and winter storm warnings are posted for much of Iowa’s northern third. Forecasters say some areas may see six to 12 inches of snow, while others may get a mix of snow, sleet, freezing rain and just rain to the south. “We are making sure that our crews are aware of the weather threat and we have reassigned some of our crews in Iowa to head to those areas,” Greenwood says. “Those areas include the Waterloo area, but we’re also putting additional crews in the Fort Dodge area to respond to anything that may occur in north-central Iowa.”

They’re also parking storm trailers in those areas, large trucks that are packed with the parts crews will need in restoring power, so they won’t be required to drive back to a warehouse. Greenwood says they’re also assigning tree crews with chainsaws at the ready in areas including Storm Lake, Humboldt, Carroll and Waterloo.

(By Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City)

Radio Iowa