Archive for Thursday, February 7, 2002

Ice storm deals misery

February 7, 2002

Like many of their Corliss Road neighbors last Friday afternoon, the Jill and Todd Mason family had been without electricity for more than 24 hours. But Todd knew they were luckier than many.

"We had my sister-in-law come over from Grandview, Mo. Then we lost power," Todd said "At least, we had heat."

The heat came from a fireplace. Mason said he was using a generator to power the fireplace's blower and a refrigerator. That made for a chilly Friday morning, and it didn't do much to entertain the Mason's children on the final day of their three-day weather-imposed school vacation.

The Masons and their guests benefited from one consequence of the storm that brought so much misery to the area. Todd said a limb from a large oak tree fell on 87th Street near the Corliss Road intersection.

"I had to hook the truck on it and drag it over here or it would still be blocking the road," he said. "We're using it to heat the house."

During an inspection of De Soto Sunday, Federal Emergency Management Administration representative estimated the storm left the city with 50,000-cubic-yards of downed limbs and other debris, said city housing inspector Larry Baxter.

The city is already picking up downed limbs, he said. D.S. Freeman donated equipment and manpower to help with the effort, which is now concentrating on the downtown area, he said.

The city will remove felled tree limbs if residents put them near the curb by Feb. 18, Baxter said. Residents are asked to cut branches to lengths of five to six feet to make the job easier, he said.

City residents wanting to haul off their own tree limbs can take them to the city well field at 79th and Ottawa streets, Baxter said.

"We're trying to discourage people from burning their debris," he said.

The ice storm brought nearly two inches of badly needed rain to the area. The moisture was enough that the Johnson County Commission canceled the burn ban it issued the week before.

Those living in unincorporated areas can burn debris and tree limbs on their property after securing a burn permit from the local rural fire district, it was announced Monday.

Johnson County Public Works will pick up limbs for residential subdivisions in unincorporated areas beginning the week of Feb. 18.

The city's bill for removing limbs, clearing streets of ice and other storm-related expenses will be "hundreds of thousands of dollars" when it is finally calculated, said Interim City Administrator Rick Caplan. It is hoped federal dollars will help with those costs, he said.

Disaster declarations by Johnson County and Gov. Bill Graves are the initial steps in obtaining federal aid that could help with the city's costs, Caplan said. Should a federal declaration be forthcoming as expected, the city could recover 75 percent of its costs from FEMA, he said.

De Soto withstood the storm better than some areas. Caplan said he visited northeast Johnson County over the weekend and found the established neighborhoods there devastated by the storm. It is estimated the storm caused $10.7 million of damage in the county.

The ice storm shut off power to De Soto Apple Market, Kill Creek Pub and Steve's Meat Market from Wednesday through Friday evening.

Apple Market owner Tom Brown said the outage forced him to clear his store of dairy items, baked goods, fresh meat and other perishables. Thursday, it was decided to give the De Soto Multi-Service Center all the food it could use. Still, he said much of the food went to waste.

"We threw out everything we couldn't donate," said Brown, who bought the store last October. "I got to know the City Hall phone number pretty well, calling over there ordering dumpsters."

Store employees took advantage of the power outage to clean the store, Brown said.

Brown declined to comment on any financial loss, but noted he lost three business days one a Saturday before the Super Bowl. The outage also caused the store to reschedule its grand opening set for this weekend. Brown said a new date has not been set.

Mitch Prudden said Steve's Meat Market weathered the outage with little loss.

"We lost some things upfront and three business days, but we actually did pretty well," he said. "The cold weather saved us. If this would have been in the summer, we would have been in trouble."

By Monday noon it was believed power was restored to all but 11 De Soto homes, Baxter said.

"If anyone doesn't have power, call City Hall and we'll do what we can to get it restored," he said.

Baxter said the De Soto Volunteer Fire Department made 11 runs Jan. 30, but they were all minor incidents. Johnson County Rural Fire District No. 3 reported similar activity. City streets and nearby roads were likewise free of serious weather-related incidents, said Johnson County Sheriff's Deputy Vernon Brown.

"The salt trucks got out early, and I think people were smart enough to just slow down," he said.

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