PRAIRIE CITY, Iowa — With record low temperatures hovering over much of Iowa, Prairie City Mayor Chad Alleger told city employees to plan inside projects Wednesday. “With these temps it is probably one of the worst times of the year,” said Alleger.
Instead, a 2:00 am water main break on the north side of town proved mother nature’s cold grip has a strange sense of humor. It dragged first responders like Joe Bartello, who acts as chief of police and city administrator, into the elements. “It is pretty tough. Obviously we are fighting the weather so we are trying to keep our guys rotated around to keep them warm while we make progress getting to the hole,” said Bartello.
That hole left thirty homeowners like Kevin Manship with extremely low pressure or no water through the evening hours. Luckily for Kevin he used the bathroom before the water main break. “My son didn’t, he actually got to melt some snow,” he said with a laugh.
Despite the hardships, residents stayed patient while the city worked on the pipe in brutal conditions. Manship said, “It kept freezing up so they had to keep thawing out their stuff to work on it but they are trying, you gotta give them that.”
Local churches and community buildings offered their showers and water. Manship said, “My wife works at the Casey’s so we got water from there.”
Even Mayor Alleger pitched in, his home. Alleger said, “I made a post on Facebook opening our home for water, laundry, heat. If they don’t have heat it is a way to give back to the community.” Even though dozens of residents have been without hot water for hours, there seems to be a can-do attitude that keeps them positive, even when temperatures are not. It is an opportunity for the mayor to serve his city in a unique role. “Even if they want to have a cup of coffee and talk…my home is their home until they have water back in their homes,” said Alleger. A gesture that warmed many of these residents on one of the coldest days in Iowa history. Manship replied, “It’s awesome, I’m glad to say I live here in Prairie City. It’s great.”
Late Wednesday evening crews were still working on the water main break. A letter on the Prairie City website indicated the repairs could take until Friday February 1st to complete.