CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Slowly, but surely, the lights are coming back on for Iowans who lost power due to the wet, heavy snow that fell late Wednesday night and on Thursday.
As many as 40,000 Iowans statewide lost power at the height of the snowstorm as lines snapped in the wind or from the impact or falling tree limbs. Alliant Energy expected to restore power to the final few homes by Friday evening. But utility officials admit those final homes are always the ones that seem to take longer than anything else after a significant outage.
Justin Fosse, a spokesperson with Alliant Energy, said the pace of recovery always slows down towards the end of a big outage.
"Now, we're really into the backyards and it takes a lot of work to accomplish very little result. Of course, when you get that one result the customer is happy because the power came back on at their house," Fosse said.
Sylvia McGuire said she's had power knocked out before and it was always back on within a couple of hours.
So when the electricity at her southeast side Cedar Rapids home went out at five o'clock Thursday evening, she wasn't worried. But crews found a large tree leaning on a power pole behind her home. The fix wasn't quick or easy. So McGuire and a handful of her neighbors were probably looking at 24 hours with no heat or lights.
"I have a gas stove so I can heat water and I have coffee. Also, I'm a cold weather camper, so I have gear I can keep warm," McGuire said.
Foss said utility crews prioritize repairs and tackle the jobs that restore electricity to the greatest number of customers first. So after a big outage, power from a single repair can often bring homes online by the hundreds at a time. But eventually it gets down to broken lines, one or two at a time.
In a lot of winter storms, ice and wind combine to snap lines and cut power. But Fosse said trees played a much bigger role this time in breaking power lines. But sometimes fate can play cruel tricks.
For instance, one of McGuire's neighbors, Steve Goettel, didn't lose power even though he just lives across the street. Instead, a tree that fell crushed his car parked in the street.
"I didn't know about this when it happened," Goettel said adding "so I got a good night's sleep in a warm house. But this was a surprise when I got up."