Public Safety

Snow, high-speed winds and below zero temperatures to hit Cedar Rapids Wednesday night

Grasses along the Cedar River are covered with ice in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019. Residents braced for rec
Grasses along the Cedar River are covered with ice in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019. Residents braced for record cold temperatures as a polar vortex moved into the Midwest. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

Cedar Rapidians may want to bundle up and batten down the hatches as another winter storm is expected to enter the Corridor area Wednesday night, bringing with it below-freezing temperatures and fierce winds.

According to a hazardous weather outlook from the National Weather Service Quad Cities, “A storm system will spread snow into the area (Wednesday) afternoon and night, followed by an arctic cold front that will bring strong winds and bitter cold temperatures and wind chills overnight into Thursday morning. Snow, drifting snow and falling temperatures will create hazardous travel conditions, especially overnight.”

David Cousins, a meteorologist at NWS Quad Cities, said there are actually two storm systems moving into the area — one from the southwest and one from the northwest — which will meet over the area Wednesday night.

“It’s going to be a very active into the weekend weather-wise,” he said. “Starting Wednesday night, we’ll see a very strong arctic cold front move through the area from the north. Some snow is likely after 5 p.m., but Cedar Rapids won’t see much accumulation — maybe 1.4 inches.”

Heavy winds are also expected to move into the area Wednesday night, causing temperatures to drop dramatically by Thursday morning and resulting in drifting snow and potentially hazardous travel conditions.

“Temperatures will drop from the mid-30s (Wednesday afternoon) down to about -1 degrees by Thursday morning,” Cousins said. “And, that’s a pretty sharp contrast between today and tomorrow.”

In preparation, Emily Breen, the Development Services Communications Coordinator for the City of Cedar Rapids said, the Public Works Department has pretreated bridges and overpasses, “which are more susceptible to slick conditions.”

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Additionally, she said the city has approximately 10,000 tons of salt and sand stored at four different locations throughout the city.

“Staff are on call 24/7 during the winter months, and will be deployed with spreaders as the event rolls in. Crews will spread salt and sand to aid in traction,” she said.

Though the decline in temperatures will be significant, Cousins said the NWS is not too concerned about “flash freeze” conditions as the snowfall expected Wednesday night will be drier snow and the weather early this week has not allowed for significant melting.

“It’s still going to be harsh — people will want to bundle up because it will be very cold, ” he said, “but we’re not expecting there to be a flash freeze type activity.”

Cousins said the winds will “really pick up” after 9 p.m. on Wednesday, blowing in at 15 to 25 miles per hour with some gusts reaching 30 mph.

“The wind will really peak (Thursday morning) between about 6 and 10 a.m.,” he said. “That’s when we might see some significant gusts and wind chills as low as -25 degrees.

Such conditions Cousins said result in frostbite if one isn’t careful.

“Frostbite can set in on exposed skin in as little as 30 minutes,” he said. “So people will want to dress warmly and in layers and limit the amount of skin left exposed.”

The winds will start to die down about midday Thursday, Cousins said, but temperatures will remain below zero through Thursday night.

Though it will still be cold, Friday is expected to see slightly warmer temperatures, Cousins said.

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According to the National Weather Service website, Friday is expected to see sunny skies with a high of 15 degrees.

“And, temperatures will begin to warm overnight and through Saturday when we’ll see the highs go back up into the 30s,” Cousins said.

Saturday’s forecast calls for a high of 39 degrees with a slight chance of snow in the earlier part of the day, and Sunday is expected to be mostly sunny with a high of 37 degrees.

Those warmer temperatures are expected to last through Monday, Cousins said, before beginning to dip down again on Tuesday.

In the case of any winter storm — but especially ones that bring extremely low temperatures, public safety spokesperson said it is important residents prepare their homes and vehicles.

“Typically, a subzero weather event is problematic because of the dangers of freezing pipes and stress on mechanical equipment like motor vehicles,” he said.

Making sure pipes are properly insulated before winter sets in can save residents a lot of hassle when the colder temperatures set in.

For vehicles, Buelow said Cedar Rapidians should keep cold-weather gear in their car — including extra food and water, warm clothing, a flashlight, a glass scraper, blankets and medications. Tires should be properly inflated with plenty of tread and drivers should not let their gas tanks dip below the half mark.

Comments: (319) 398-8238; kat.russell@thegazette.com

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