2019 WINTER WEATHER

'Life-threatening' cold hits Corridor this week

Temps will plunge 40 degrees below normal

People cross 220th Trail as snow falls during Winterfest in Amana on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
People cross 220th Trail as snow falls during Winterfest in Amana on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — “Life-threatening” cold temperatures are moving into the Corridor region this week, and the advice from the weather service is to stay indoors.

Temperatures are predicted to be at least 40 degrees below normal for the Cedar Rapids area, according to a National Weather Service meteorologist in the Quad Cities.

“Since we’re looking at life-threatening temperatures, the best advice is to not travel,” meteorologist Zach Uttech said, warning that frostbite can occur in less than five minutes on exposed skin.

To start the week, snow overnight Sunday — 2 to 4 inches — is expected to change into a wintry mix of sleet and freezing rain early Monday, leaving a glaze of ice on area roads during the morning commute. While the precipitation will likely slow or stop by midmorning, wind gusts of up to 35 mph are expected, Uttech said, and will create blowing and drifting snow, causing likely dangerous driving conditions.

By 6 a.m. Monday, temperatures are “really going to drop fast,” he said. “By the time we’re toward the noon hour, Cedar Rapids is going down to 10 degrees, with the wind chill dropping below zero.”

But it’s Tuesday is when temperatures begin to drop drastically. “That’s where things get really bad,” Uttech said. The area will be lucky to see a high of zero that day, he said, with wind chills between -15 and -25.

A wind chill watch is in effect from 3 p.m. Tuesday till Thursday morning with wind chills between -40 and -50 degrees — the coldest possibly Tuesday night through Wednesday morning with chills as low as -55, Uttech said.

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Without the wind, the air temperature will be a low of -25 Tuesday. The high for Wednesday is -14 degrees, with a low of -26 Wednesday night, he said.

It’s best to stay indoors during temperatures this cold, Uttech said. If going outside, bundle up, wear multiple layers that block the wind and try to limit skin exposure to avoid frostbite, he said.

The normal temperature in the Cedar Rapids area this time of year is 11 degrees, Uttech said, and theses are the coldest temperatures Eastern Iowa has seen since 1996, according a weather service forecast.

Fortunately, there isn’t much more snow expected during the week, though there is a chance of light snow Thursday afternoon into Thursday night.

Between 15 and 18 inches of snow have fallen in the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City areas this January, Uttech said.

Over the weekend, the Iowa Department of Transportation applied nearly 800,000 pounds of salt on state-maintained roads in Linn and Johnson counties, and a total of 7.5 million pounds statewide, according to the department’s Track a Plow website. The estimated cost for the weekend road care was around $53,000 in Linn and Johnson counties and $546,000 statewide, according to Iowa DOT.

Nearly every day last week, school districts delayed school, let students out early or canceled classes altogether to avoid coping with the treacherous weather. Typically, decisions to cancel school come around 5:30 a.m., after superintendents or district transportation directors have spent the early morning hours assessing road conditions, temperatures and forecasts.

For details on cancellations this week, check with local districts.

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