News

Southeast Iowa left out in the cold after weekend snowstorm causes freezing temperatures

MP, Washington receives snowstorm, stays just below blizzard qualifications

GTNS photo by Grace King

After seeing three to six inches of snow accumulate early on Saturday, Jan. 19, the sun peaked out from behind clouds, glistening off the fresh powder. Here is the snowy campus of Iowa Wesleyan University looking out from between trees at the back of the P.E.O. building.
GTNS photo by Grace King After seeing three to six inches of snow accumulate early on Saturday, Jan. 19, the sun peaked out from behind clouds, glistening off the fresh powder. Here is the snowy campus of Iowa Wesleyan University looking out from between trees at the back of the P.E.O. building.

Southeast Iowa will need some time to recover from the cold brought on over the weekend as a snowstorm hit the region for the second time this month.

The second snowstorm in two weeks to hit both Washington and Mt. Pleasant brought just over 4 inches of snow, but the high winds caused a near blizzard warning.

Washington County Emergency Management Coordinator Marissa Reisen said blizzard conditions deal with wind speed and strength for a set amount of time.

“For it to be a blizzard warning it has to be the same winds of 30-35 mph for at least three hours,” she explained. “We were just under the threshold with 20-25 (mph winds) with depth in the 30s.”

Mt. Pleasant saw similar wind speeds but did not reach blizzard conditions either.

Lt. Lyle Murray, with the Mt. Pleasant Police Department, said there were only minor snow-related accidents over the weekend.

“It was a relatively quiet weekend other than hauling people out of snowbanks,” Murray said. “If it’s bad weather, just try to stay home. We’ve got people out and about when it’s not necessary that they are. In snowstorms people should try to stay home, stay off the roads, let the road crews do their job.”

Washington saw no major accidents but several instances of cars stuck in the snow.

Reisen said due to the severity of the impending snowstorm warning southeast Iowa was under, it was confirmed and even extended. The National Weather Service reported just over 4 inches for Washington and 6 in Iowa City but Reisen said due to the winds, it’s hard to tell how accurate those numbers are.

“It was so windy after the fact that we could have had another inch and didn’t know it because it just blew around so much,” she said.

Mt. Pleasant and Henry County saw about 3-6 inches of snow accumulate on Saturday, Jan. 19. Travel conditions were slightly hazardous with strong winds blowing snow across the roads.

Jake Hotchkiss, Henry County engineer, said the county roads are in pretty good shape. The majority of the routes were passable by Sunday night, Jan. 20. On Monday, they were working on cleaning up the roads a little more to prepare for predicted snow on Tuesday, Jan. 22.

“It was all hands on deck over the weekend working on snow,” Hotchkiss said. “We were fighting wind on Saturday, and Sunday was a big push to get the roads cleared.”

Hotchkiss asks for the public’s patience as snowstorms bring heavier snow to the area. The department is using a lot of material and spending a lot of hours trying to clear the roads as quickly as possible, Hotchkiss said.

In Washington, the snow began around 3 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 18, and continued through the night. Road conditions were hazardous overnight but Reisen said the city was aware and preparing for the worst days ahead of time.

“Thursday morning the city was out with graders and plows trying to push snow away and move it before the storm,” she said. “They were on top of things.”

JJ Bell, Maintenance Superintendent for the City of Washington, said this storm was on their minds and pushed his crews to get their trucks out at 7 a.m. on Thursday and Friday mornings to move snow before the impending storm. By Saturday, Jan. 19, trucks were out at 5:30 a.m. plowing normal routes.

Bell said no special prep work was required for this storm and everything was routine. He said trucks will be out this week to plow and salt as more severe weather is headed Washington’s way. According to the National Weather Service temperatures are to range as high as 36 degrees on Tuesday and as low as negative 15 on Thursday evening with the possibility of a wintry mix of rain and freezing rain on Tuesday and more snow on Thursday.

Mt. Pleasant Public Works sent crews out on Saturday at midnight, 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. until noon trying to get the streets open so people could get around, said Rick Mullin with the Public Works Department.

Public Works was out again on Monday, Jan. 21, at 5 a.m. cleaning up snow and salting and sanding the roads to get ready for the next storm, Mullin said.

Mullin asks that people not park on the streets, especially downtown Mt. Pleasant from 2 to 6 a.m., during snowstorms.

“That creates problems during the week,” Mullin said. “We’ll go back within the next couple days to try to clean up those spots. Some people clean out their driveway and we push them back shut, but we’re just trying to keep the streets clean.”