Nasty winter weather makes travel tricky in eastern Iowa

Published: Jan. 18, 2019 at 11:13 PM CST
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As soon as that winter storm system moved into eastern Iowa it didn't take long to blanket Cedar Rapids in snowflakes. Roadways were caked within an hour in the downtown area. Tricky travel abounded.

"The heaviest snowfall will happen late tonight into early Saturday morning," First Alert Storm Team Meteorologist Joe Winters said. "Snow should wrap up by early midday Saturday."

Winters expected snowfall in the Cedar Rapids area would reach between six to nine inches by the time the system finished around 9:00 a.m., Saturday. He said travel conditions could prove to be difficult overnight with winds gusting to 30 m.p.h., causing blowing and drifting snow.

“Travel late tonight will be difficult,” said Winters. "The snow will be light and fluffy. This will make it easier to shovel. But, with the wind, this will be a very hard snowfall to measure."

Law enforcement, days before the first flake fell, were warning people online to stay home unless absolutely necessary Friday into Saturday.

"Probably the most important thing I would tell people during snow storms, stay home," said Iowa State Patrol Trooper Bob Conrad. "If you don't need to be out there, don't go out there. We would love to be home if we could."

Conrad said Friday he and his fellow officers would likely be staying on extra hours to help stranded motorists and the like until conditions improved.

"That may turn into a 12-hour shift," Conrad said. "I think my longest that I ever had in my career was up in the Waterloo area. That was 32 hours."

In the past, storm prep for troopers included getting these beauties ready to roll. The Iowa State Patrol had used eight humvees, handed down from the Iowa National Guard, to help with stranded drivers in the snow. But, finding them lacking all the technology and equipment of a modern squad car, that effort was discontinued.

Authorities warned, on the off chance a driver does get stranded, it may take a bit for help to reach them. Law enforcement recommended having safety supplies ready in the vehicle. A charged phone, water, and warm clothes or blankets.