Health and Weather Concerns Force Delay to MidAmerican Energy Maintenance in Des Moines

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- Electric service maintenance is routine in a city like Des Moines, but at 2400 Hickman Road, customers who were worried for their lives caused MidAmerican Energy to pull the plug on a project that would have left dozens without heat on a frigid December night.

"I could die in my sleep," said Anthony Moriarity, who lives at the Hickman Flats Apartments.

MidAmerican Energy flyers notified dozens of Hickman Flats residents, like Moriarity, that Tuesday night into Wednesday morning they would be without power for six hours.

"If it was during the day, it would be a whole different situation since I'd be awake," said Moriarity, who suffers from sleep apnea.  "I can sleep. I just don't know if I'll wake up," added Moriarity.

Moriarity needs electricity for his CPAP machine overnight while sleeping.  Moriarity said, "Ninety-two times an hour means how many times I stop breathing without it."

Luckily for Moriarity, his grandmother was able to offer him a place for the night.  "I understand things like this, but I understand lives, too, and what they are doing is wrong," said Sheri Rossiter, Moriarity's grandmother.

MidAmerican Energy says the maintenance, which would also cut power to the nearby Family Dollar, is necessary after a semi-truck trailer crashed into several utility poles on Dec. 1.  "Our concern is that if we don't replace it, either another vehicle hitting it or weather impacting the line could take down more customers and for a longer period of time," said Geoff Greenwood, media relations manager for MidAmerican Energy.

MidAmerican Energy also says night time is the right time for the maintenance.  "The road is a very heavily traveled road. There are a lot of cars traveling, and for the safety of our crews, night time is the best time for us to schedule," said Greenwood.

After receiving calls from residents of the apartment complex with stories similar to Moriarity's or others with small children worried about the cold temps, MidAmerican Energy pulled back.  "Wintertime is cold. We have heard customers express concern because of predicted temperatures tonight, so we are postponing this," Greenwood said.

Residents like Moriarity are literally breathing a sigh of relief Tuesday night.  "I'd like to be around a long time to basically see another day," he said.

The repairs were not scheduled by Hickman Flats Management.  A scheduled maintenance date has not been set by MidAmerican Energy.

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