After a week of unseasonably warm weather, temperatures began to rapidly plummet Monday as snow squalls blew across Iowa, briefly creating near whiteout conditions that led to several wrecks including a massive pileup on Interstate 80 near Altoona.
The Iowa State Patrol said one person was seriously injured in a crash involving about 50 vehicles Monday afternoon in the westbound lanes of I-80 near the Highway 65 interchange, blocking highway traffic in the Des Moines metro area.
Locally, Cedar Rapids public safety spokesperson Greg Buelow said 19 wrecks occurred between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday when a brief snowstorm moved through the area. No serious injuries were reported, he said.
In northwest Iowa, a school bus carrying 19 students was struck Monday morning in O’Brien County. The patrol said the wreck happened just after 10 a.m. when a vehicle headed south on Highway 59 lost control on the slick road, crossed the centerline and crashed into the bus. No injuries were reported, authorities said.
Now that temperatures have plunged, Tuesday’s forecast for the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City area calls for a high of about 20 degrees with 10 to 20 mph winds and a windchill factor as low as zero, said David Cousins, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in the Quad Cities. Tuesday night, the temperature will dip to about 11 degrees.
“Tuesday is really going to be the coldest day this week with the sub-30 temperatures and wind chill,” he said. “And that cold will seep into Wednesday.”
According to a hazardous weather outlook announcement from the weather service, “brisk northwest winds and cold temperatures will combine to produce wind chills from around zero degrees to five below zero” Tuesday morning.
Wednesday’s forecast calls for slightly higher temperatures — a high near 25 and a low of about 16. The weather service said there is a chance for light snow to move across Eastern Iowa, especially north of I-80, during the Wednesday morning commute.
Weather should warm up slightly starting Thursday with a high of 37 degrees.
Friday will be the warmest day of the week, Cousins said, with a high of 43 and mostly cloudy skies. There is, he added, another slight chance of snow late Friday night into early Saturday.
Saturday is expected to see a high of 38.
Temperatures will begin to dip again on Sunday when the high is expected to be in the upper 20s.
But that doesn’t mean Eastern Iowa won’t see a few more unseasonably warm days in the coming weeks, Cousins said.
“I think in the latter part of the month there is a chance for some more above-normal temperatures — the outlook for the week before Christmas shows there chances of above normal temperatures — as well as chances of above normal above normal precipitation,” he said. “But it’s really hard to predict that far out.”
Likewise, Cousins said, it’s too early to say if Eastern Iowa will see a white Christmas.
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