Eastern Iowans Digging Out from Latest Round of Snow

By Lee Hermiston, Reporter

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By Aaron Hepker

IOWA CITY, Iowa - The first significant snowstorm of the year is made travel difficult throughout Eastern Iowa Sunday.

An estimated four to seven inches of snow fell over night. Officials in both Cedar Rapids and Iowa City warned that, even with plows out, travel was difficult on main thoroughfares and highly difficult - if not nearly impossible for some vehicles - on side streets and in residential areas.

Cedar Rapids Public Works Maintenance Manager Craig Hanson said a fleet of more than 70 plows were out Sunday.

"The main roads are plowed but have 2-3 inches on them," Hanson said, adding he doesn't expect plows to start hitting residential roads until after 9 p.m.

Cedar Rapids police Lt. Ryan Abodeely said the department did not had to run very many traffic calls Sunday, save for a few squad cars that have gotten stuck.

"It’s been pretty slow throughout the night," Abodeely said. "Most people are staying home."

However, out in the county, Linn County Sheriff deputies have encountered some cars that have slid off the road, said Sgt. Richard Yoder. Yoder said there have not been very many traffic-related crashes and those that have occurred did not result in any injuries.

"I think people were aware this was going to be a bad storm and have stayed home," Yoder said. "I wouldn’t recommend going out until the afternoon until the roads that have been plowed at least once."

Yoder said deputies have reported seeing plows on Interstate 380 and Highway 13, but he suspects some rural roads won't be touched until Monday.

By midday at the Eastern Iowa Airport, only a handful of flights going to and coming from Chicago's O'Hare airport were cancelled, according to the airport's website.

Iowa State Patrol Sgt. Scott Bright said weather conditions caused two semis to jackknife on Interstate 80 - one west of Williamsburg and one at the Waukee interchange. He said a number of cars have gone in the ditch statewide. He said motorists should be able to travel safely on the interstates, as long as they watch their speed and avoid distractions such as texting while driving.

"If people head out, they need to watch the speed limits and try to maintain control of their vehicle," Bright said. "There’s a reason why they lost control. All collisions are preventable...If they just take their time and watch their speeds, I don’t think they’ll have a problem."

Further north in the state, the cities of Dubuque and Waterloo are faring well in the hours after the storm. Police departments in both communities report very few weather-related incidents. No major crashes have been reported.

"We’re doing okay," said Waterloo Police Sgt. Brooke Carter. "Thankfully, it’s a Sunday and people aren’t on their way to work."

In Iowa City, Iowa City police Lt. Bill Campbell said the department hasn't had very many weather-related calls, but those that do come up are for stuck vehicles.

"Bottom line, there’s a good 4-6 inches of snow on the ground," Campbell said, noting plows are working on arterial streets, but many side streets are still thick with snow.

Having the snow storm hit on a Sunday morning, with both college and K-12 students on winter break, has helped, Campbell said.

"Having students gone and having it be a non-traditional work day, it makes things a lot easier," he said. "The volume of cars being lower makes a big difference."

Iowa City Public Works Director Rick Fosse said crews began to hit the streets at 7 p.m. Saturday night to work on slick spots. Once snowfall picked up after midnight, full crews began working around 3 a.m. and will continue until 8 p.m. Sunday.

"Right now, we’re still focused on our arterial streets and getting those cleared," Fosse said, adding plows will move into the medium and low priority streets after that.

Crews will return to the downtown area at 11 p.m. where a snow removal operation will take place. Because the snow cannot be pushed into parking stalls and sidewalks, workers will have to blow the snow into dump trucks and move it out of downtown. Fosse said they hope to have that process complete but sunrise on Monday.

"So far, it’s going well," Fosse said of plowing throughout the city. "The storm's duration was shorter than what was projected. It started later and ended sooner, but we did get a lot of snow during that period."

A snow emergency has not yet been called in Iowa City. In Cedar Rapids, snow routes are in effect and no parking is allowed on those routes. Residents are asked to park on the even side of the street so plows can get by. Streets that are unsafe because of parked cars will not be plowed, Hanson said.

Hanson also advised that this snow fall is heavier than previous storms this year and shoveling will be more difficult. He also warned that some sidewalks were not adequately treated for the ice that fell on Friday and could still be slippery beneath the snow.

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