SIOUX CITY — Northwest Iowa’s first major winter storm of the year paralyzed the region Monday, dumping more than a foot of snow in some areas and resulting in road closures, power outages and the shutdown of scores of schools, businesses and government offices.
Travel was not advised for much of the day as heavy snow and blustery winds created whiteout conditions, leading to a handful of stalled vehicles and accidents. More than 70 miles of Interstate 29 between Sioux City and Sioux Falls, S.D., were closed down Monday afternoon, and both lanes of U.S. Highway 20 east of Sioux City were blocked by two jackknifed semi-trailer trucks.
A tow ban was instituted across Northwest Iowa.
Some of the highest snow totals were expected in an area encompassing Sioux City and running northeast toward the Iowa Great Lakes. As of noon Monday, Sioux City had received 9.1 inches of snow, with 11 inches estimated to fall by the end of the day.
Meteorologist Brad Temeyer with the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls said Monday afternoon that the highest totals were expected in a band stretching from Vermillion, S.D., through Rock Valley, Iowa, and into southern Minnesota, where up to 14 inches was possible.
The area fell under a blizzard warning through midnight Monday, with wind gusts of 40 to 50 mph blowing snow across roadways and reducing visibility to near-zero throughout the late morning and afternoon. The snow tapered off in the evening, but winds continued to make visibility difficult.
In Sioux City, the weather halted transit services and shut down Sioux Gateway Airport from Sunday night to at least 9 a.m. today.
As of Monday afternoon, as many as 1,600 MidAmerican Energy customers in the Sioux City area had lost power because of storm-related outages.
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County sheriffs from the Sioux City metro said there had been few wrecks involving drivers on heavily snow-packed roads as of midday Monday, but two semi-trailer trucks spun out just before noon on U.S. Highway 20 a mile east of Sioux City, blocking both eastbound and westbound traffic.
Plow crews operating in the Woodbury County Secondary Roads Department were pulled from duties before noon. While aiming to keep roads clear, the crews are not to put themselves into unsafe situations with poor visibility, Woodbury County Sheriff Dave Drew said.
In downtown Sioux City, City Hall, the Woodbury County Courthouse and the Federal Building all closed. Sioux City Council and Sioux City School Board meetings were postponed.
Some area residents also reported “thundersnow” Monday morning, a phenomenon that can occur in the middle of a strong storm front.
Conditions look to clear up for an extended period after Monday’s storm. The weather service reports clear conditions with highs around 30 today and Wednesday, with temperatures rising into the 40s Thursday and Friday.
Journal staff writers Earl Horlyk and Bret Hayworth contributed to this story.