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Blackout! Newton, much of Central Iowa loses power after morning storm

Newton Public Works street crews were busy this morning setting out stop signs at busy intersections, removing city-owned trees from the roadways, and generally cleaning up downed branches and other debris. And the large maple in front of Maxim Advertising in the 1100 block of North Third Avenue East, (above) succumbed to the high winds, too.
Newton Public Works street crews were busy this morning setting out stop signs at busy intersections, removing city-owned trees from the roadways, and generally cleaning up downed branches and other debris. And the large maple in front of Maxim Advertising in the 1100 block of North Third Avenue East, (above) succumbed to the high winds, too.

Thousands of Jasper County residents woke up this morning without power as strong winds and heavy rains wreaked havoc throughout Iowa. An estimated 20,000 Alliant Energy customers were without power in Jasper County this morning due to the storm’s high winds. As many as 200,000 customers from Alliant and MidAmerican Energy were without power. Ryan Stenslund, with Alliant, said transmission lines were down this morning at 4 a.m., affecting most of Jasper and Poweshiek counties. Partial power was restored by 9:45 a.m. Newton commerce got a slow start to the day, due to the power outage. Restaurants, like the Midtown Cafe, were closed this morning, and a cup of coffee was a tough item to locate. The Jasper County Courthouse was fairly quiet, with most offices closed, however, the courts were still planning regular sessions. Dave Stewart, Newton Public Works Director, said his crews had been out since the storm hit Newton cleaning up several trees that were blocking traffic. “There was nothing major, but we had probably 25 areas where trees were down across streets,” Stewart said. “Crews have been out since 4 this morning trying to clear those streets.” Stewart received a report at 9:15 a.m. from Alliant Energy that full power could be restored to Newton within two to three hours and that several businesses and homes in the downtown area had power as of 10 a.m. Stewart said he wanted to remind drivers throughout the community to be aware of traffic signals that may not be online yet. “There were several traffic signals down and it’s a good reminder to treat those intersections as if they are four-way stops even if there are not stop signs there,” he said. Stewart said the city had no plans at this time to pick up trees and branches from residents. Street crews were removing approximately 25 trees in the city limits that were blocking roadways and removing city-owned trees. However, Stewart said, the damage from this storm did not warrant city-wide clean-up. He added that the Newton City Council may be discussing the storm situation at its meeting this evening. John Easley, director of marketing and public relations at Skiff Medical Center, said the hospital was functioning on back-up generators prior to power being restored and the hospital had canceled all non-emergency surgeries and the Newton Clinic and some private practices were closed. However, Easley reported that at 9:40 a.m. full power had been restored to the hospital and clinic, and things were running as usual. “We have full power to the hospital and everything is fully functional,” he said. The hospital has opened a room for those needing electricity for medical equipment used in the home. The room is open to the public. “We have a room at the hospital for anyone who needs hook up for a home nebulizer, home oxygen equipment, or any medical equipment like that,” Easley said. “People may come to Skiff Medical Center and come to the front desk and explain why they are here, and we have the room ready where they can hook up to power.” Easley also reported one storm-related injury came into the emergency room during the early morning hours. A young boy was injured when a tree crashed through a window at his home. The boy was treated for his injuries and released. No further information was available on the boy as Jasper County Law Enforcement Center was running on generators and computers could not be accessed. Over in Colfax, where the Jasper County Fair is under way, fair board spokesperson Rhonda Guy said damage was minimal to the grounds. The Big Tent on the north side of the fair grounds was blown down but is being restored this morning. No campers were overturned in the campgrounds, but several lost their awnings. “We did evacuate everybody in the campgrounds to the shower house about 4 a.m., and after the main part of the storm was passed, they returned to their campers about 4:30 a.m.,” Guy said. She praised the hard work of the 4-H and FFA members for cleaning up the grounds. “We have a good bunch of kids, who stepped up and cleaned the debris,” Guy said.

Jessica Lowe can be contacted at 792-3121 ext. 426 or via e-mail at jlowe@newtondailynews.com. John Jennings can be contacted at 792-3121 ext. 425 or via e-mail at jennings@newtondailynews.com.

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