Record Cold Temps in Parts of Eastern Iowa

By B.A. Morelli, Reporter

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By Aaron Hepker

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Eastern Iowans awoke to frigid temperatures — historically low in some cases — on Christmas Eve day. But despite the desire to stay indoors, there's little reason to avoid traveling for Christmas, some say.

The continuing bitter cold has people hunkering down, such as at local homeless shelters, many of which are at or near capacity.

"I don't think anybody should be out there on a day like today, especially kids," said Roy Tucker, 56, who was staying at Shelter House in Iowa City on Tuesday.

Mark Sertterh, resident services director, said the 70-bed shelter was at capacity, and given the extreme conditions they are allowing additional people to use the lobby to warm up.

"We have not been turning people away," Sertterh said.

Tucker said he stayed in doors on Tuesday when early morning temperatures were blistering minus 15 and never rose above the low single digits. Others followed the typical policy of leaving the shelter from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., he said.

In Cedar Rapids, it was even colder.

KCRG-TV9 meteorologist Kaj O'Mara reports the minus 18 degrees in Cedar Rapids Tuesday morning tied the record low for Dec. 24 set in 1983, and it is the coldest temperature overall in nearly five years.

On Jan. 16, 2009, in Cedar Rapids it was minus 28 degrees, one degree shy of the all-time record set the day before.

While other parts of Eastern Iowa didn't shatter records, at minus 15 in Iowa City, minus 21 in Waterloo and minus 20 in Dubuque, it's safe to say it's been a cold day all around.

"It's been a long time since we have had it this cold," O'Mara said. "Unfortunately it seems like the pattern is going to continue with periodic bouts of cold weather."

Yet some faced parts of the day out doors.

The Bohr family of Cedar Rapids spent the afternoon bell ringing for the Salvation Army at the Wilson Avenue Hy-Vee. Bundled as if for the Arctic, Steve and Jennifer and their children — Brody, 15, Baxter, 11, and Ayva, 11 — also treated customers to Christmas carols.

In Iowa City, staff from Geoff's Bike and Ski used the relatively slow day to play around on winter bikes in the parking lot.

"We are just messing around," said Sam Cohen, a staff member, who along with three colleagues took turns trying to jump three-foot snow bank on a custom-built fat-tire tricycle. "We don't have a lot of customers, and we have these really awesome winter bikes."

Cohen even laughed it off when one of the jumps dumped him over in the snow.

While the Christmas Day forecast calls for an uptick to a high of 25 degrees and low of 10, with storms on the horizon every two or three days for the foreseeable future, this cold snap will be tough to break, O'Mara explained.

But those wishing for a white Christmas will be in luck. Light snow could accumulate to 2 to 3 inches — heavier in northern parts of Iowa — by morning, making for a fresh coating. Christmas travel is expected to be relatively safe.

"Most people are pretty adept at traveling in relatively light snow, as that would appear to be," said Gail Weinholzer of AAA Minnesota-Iowa. "People should be safe as long as they are allowing extra time, making sure their vehicle is well-maintained and driving appropriately.

"This isn't a blizzard. Most people can handle an inch or two."

Still, people should also be careful of non-vehicle related accidents, too.

The deep freeze is leading to packed emergency rooms in Cedar Rapids, including at least 20 people a day winding up in UnityPoint Health-St. Luke Hospital's emergency room after tumbling on icy roads, sidewalks and driveways in the past five days.

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