• warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.
  • warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.

Picking up the pieces

Neighbors unite to clear storm damage Most power restored before weekend Take debris to SRNA
picture by Lori Lindner

SOLON– Public Works Director Scott Kleppe had about a half hour warning.
But even then, the alert was for a line of severe thunderstorms producing winds up to 70 miles per hour (mph).
It was about noon and his staff just went home for lunch.
Kleppe contacted Central Cable, the contractor for South Slope Communication Cooperative’s fiber overbuild, and provided a warning for high winds.
By the time he finished a quick lunch, the storm arrived.
The city has no instruments to measure wind speed.
North Liberty reported gusts close to 99 mph. Iowa City and Cedar Rapids both experienced winds of over 100 mph.
It was an inland hurricane, a derecho, and it tore a path across the state and into Illinois, leaving hundreds of thousands without power for days.
Kleppe drove through town during the storm and parked to observe some mature trees bending horizontally.
The truck began rocking.
“I’ve been in wind before, but never like that,” he said.
It sounded as if someone was taking handfuls of rocks and pelting the city truck as hard as they could.
“Every now and then you would see a limb go whizzing by,” he said. “It was just nuts.”
By all accounts, Solon was lucky, even with the prolonged outages. Power was restoeed to most residents by late Friday afternoon.
But there were some close calls, especially at the wastewater treatment plant, Kleppe reported.
The city’s water and wastewater facilities are served by backup generators, but the one at the sewage plant was barely hanging on.
“Literally two hours before the power came on for the majority of Solon, we were down there at the wastewater plant with a garden hose spraying the radiator to keep the generator from overheating,” he noted. “Not only were we fighting debris management, but we were fighting to keep the generators going.”
The city also has backup generators on two lift stations, and two of its three wells. An additional generator was placed at the water tower to maintain communication with the wells, but Kleppe said South Slope allowed the city to plug into theirs.
Only minor damage was reported to city buildings and parks.
A wall at the old maintenance garage was bowed by the wind, City Hall suffered a broken window and lost some soffit, well No. 3 lost some shingles and a large tree in City Park downtown will unfortunately have to come down, Kleppe said.
There was also an issue with the Main Street and Highway 1 intersection signal when its back-up battery ran out of juice Tuesday morning, he reported. An electrician was brought in to re-wire the traffic lights to a backup generator, but it was discovered a specialty fuse had blown as well.
Kleppe was able to obtain a spare from the City of North Liberty to light the intersection.
Residents were encouraged to take storm debris to the Solon Recreation and Nature Area (SRNA) parking lot, and by Friday morning, Aug. 14, the pile measured 14,000 cubic yards, he said.
A contractor will have to grind it all to mulch.
“What we’re going to do with the mulch, I have no idea,” he said. “We’ll have a pile of mulch I don’t know if we could get rid of in years.”
The public works crew worked from sunup to 7 p.m. each day, and all were looking forward to 4 p.m. Friday.
Kleppe said the city had been unable to clear more of Highway 1 because traffic was too great, but will be back at it after the weekend.
He delivered a “huge shout-out” to Jay Proffitt and the Proffitt Construction crew.
“That was one of the first phone calls I made Monday,” Kleppe said.
Proffitt and his crew worked hand in hand with city staff to clear debris from streets and yards, wrapping up Thursday evening, Aug. 13, he noted.
Kleppe also called in Chris Handley, who brought in an endloader and worked Monday night and all day Tuesday, returning often to manage the pile at the SRNA.
“That was huge,” he said. “Without him, that pile would have been stretched the entire length of the parking lot by now.”
On Monday and Tuesday, there was devastation everywhere.
By Thursday night, the town was looking like Solon again, albeit with a slightly altered landscape, he said.
“It is truly impressive how this community came together after the storm helping each other out,” he observed. “Really wonderful to see that.”
Jordan Creek Church contacted him to see if help was needed, and both the cross-country and football teams came in to help.
“Very impressive,” Kleppe noted.
There wasn’t time to take photos, so Kleppe would be interested in seeing pictures taken by residents.
Not a lot of significant private damage was reported. Tree limbs fell on some vehicles, some metal sheds were wadded up and blown around and there are a lot of roofs with damage, he said.
Not many trees damaged houses.
“This whole town is fortunate that didn’t happen,” he said. “I have never, ever seen anything like it.
“It was crazy.”