116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Brace yourselves: The weather gets even colder and windier Friday.
A strong winter storm arrived in Iowa just in time for the long holiday weekend, bringing increasingly high wind gusts, dangerous wind chills and blizzard conditions through Saturday morning, according to the National Weather Service.
A swath of Iowa including Iowa City and Cedar Rapids remains under a blizzard warning until 6 a.m. Saturday.
Projections show that wind gusts will pick up from about 35 mph seen Thursday afternoon to 46 mph by Friday afternoon in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids, creating white-out conditions. And, as a consequence, wind chills will drop a few degrees more, although around 35 to 37 degrees already is dangerously cold.
With few exceptions, major roads in Iowa were reported to be partially covered with snow or ice Thursday evening, and officials were advising against travel on many — including on Interstate 380 between Cedar Rapids and Iowa City and on Interstate 80 between Des Moines and Iowa City.
Snowplow crews for the state and several cities have been working since Wednesday night to clear roads.
The city of Cedar Rapids has had about 100 people out plowing since the snowfall started. Assistant Director of Public Works Mike Duffy said the plan has been to clear main roads and emergency routes first. The department is also keeping a “close eye” on the expected temperatures and wind in the coming days.
“We want to remind residents that this is going to be a longer event taking us into the holiday weekend,” Duffy said. “We plan on having crews out over the holidays, but if residents don’t need to travel, we ask that they stay home.
“If they have to travel, we ask that they give themselves plenty of time to get where they are going,” Duffy added. “Give yourself room between you and other drivers as well as our crews and slow down.”
Iowa Department of Transportation Winter Operations Administrator Craig Bargfrede said the number of trucks the agency has out varies but is staying steady between 500 and 550.
“The crews have been dealing with very slick conditions, especially in the Central Iowa area and eastward toward Cedar Rapids and Iowa City,” Bargfrede told The Gazette.
Bargfrede added that with the continued cold temperatures, the Iowa DOT’s treatments for the roads are not very effective.
“We need the winds to go down and the temps to rise before we can get our treatments to be effective in bringing the roads back to near normal winter driving conditions,” he said.
The Corridor is expected to get 2 to 3 inches of snow heading into Friday, though there were some areas with more. The weather service reported 5 inches in western Marion, 4 inches in western Cedar Rapids and 3.5 inches in north Coralville on Thursday.
But forecasters warn that the level of snowfall doesn’t matter as much as the cold temperatures and blowing snow.
“The largest concern with this winter storm remains the strong northwest winds and dangerous cold. Forecast confidence remains high for both,” the weather service warns. “With blizzard conditions (near zero visibility) possible at times, travel will become difficult, if not impossible, across the area, especially late Thursday through Friday night.”
Patricia Hall, solid waste and recycling manager with the city of Cedar Rapids, said property owners have 24 hours from the “official recorded date and time” of the end of each winter weather event to clear snow and ice from sidewalks and ramps.
“Because this current weather event is still ongoing, we have not yet enacted the 24-hour clock,” Hall said Thursday. “We will enact the 24-hour clock at some point, but do not know yet when that will be; but we will be communicating that out in many ways as soon as we know more” — such on social media and on city news briefings.
“If a new snow event starts during the 24-hour clock, the countdown stops for that storm and a new clock begins,” Hall added. “This snow event is unique in that after the end of the accumulating snow, high winds and brutal cold will make efforts to clear sidewalks and ramps extremely difficult.”
In Marion, snow and ice are required to be removed from sidewalks within 36 hours of the snowfall ending. The temperature does not change that rule, according to communications manager Amber Bisinger.
The Eastern Iowa Airport is was seeing the effects of the winter storm. As of early evening Thursday, the majority of arrivals and departures throughout the day had been canceled.
Local post offices were still trying to make deliveries of mail and packages Thursday before the holiday weekend.
“Carriers deliver in a wide range of temperatures and post office locations may close after careful consideration, but only as a last resort,” USPS Communications Specialist Mark Inglett said Thursday. “Currently, we are making every effort to get all mail delivered, but the safety of our employees is a top priority. We will continue to monitor the weather conditions to ensure everyone remains safe.”
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