OSKALOOSA — A winter storm system left snow and freezing rain across Iowa on Tuesday. And more is coming.
Much like the federal government's direct stimulus payments to Americans, the snow didn't make it in time for Christmas. It began falling Tuesday afternoon, and switched to freezing rain and a wintry mix in the evening hours, impacting the Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning commutes.
Most of Mahaska County received between 4 and 6 inches of snow, according to an analysis by the Iowa Environmental Mesonet. Neighboring Marion County, however, saw substantially more.
An emergency management representative reported 10 inches of snow fell in Knoxville. A citizen reported a measurement of 7.8 inches of snow in Pella to the National Weather Service. Other reports of between 6 and 8 inches scattered the county.
The National Weather Service had issued a winter storm warning in the days and hours preceding the storm, which impacted both Mahaska and Marion counties. All 99 of Iowa's counties were under a winter storm warning, advisory or watch of some kind Tuesday. Forecasters originally expected 2-6 inches of snow in the area, but as the system neared the threat of freezing rain increased more and more.
Road closures and accidents were being reported across the area, even as the Iowa Department of Transportation reported they had more than 500 plows on the roads across the state. Adding to the issues were blowing snow causing low visibility on roads. The Iowa Department of Public Safety has asked travelers not to venture out on the roads if they didn't have to. The Iowa State Patrol said it worked 91 crashes around the state and assisted 372 motorists.
Weather conditions caused delays in Iowa's coronavirus testing as well, as the Iowa Department of Public Health said. Three test sites — in Cedar Rapids, Davenport and Waterloo — closed. The Wapello County Emergency Management Agency closed the Ottumwa Test Iowa site early Tuesday evening, telling those with Tuesday night appointments they could come in on Wednesday. Test samples from other areas of the state where travel was not recommended will be delayed in getting to the laboratory for testing.
The Associated Press reported that AccuWeather said parts of southeast Nebraska, northeast Kansas, northern Missouri and southern Iowa could see ice accumulations of up to a quarter of an inch, which could weigh down power lines and branches and cause power outages.
Earlier Tuesday, snowfall was heavy, causing visibility problems for motorists and rapidly deteriorating road conditions, Iowa State Patrol spokesman Sgt. Alex Dinkla said. He added that crashes were happening across the state with heavy post-Christmas travel.
“All our troopers are very busy right now covering crashes all over Iowa. Road conditions are very dangerous,” he said.
The city of Des Moines had more than 200 employees from public works, parks and recreation, and wastewater reclamation departments on snow removal duty. Public Works Director Jonathan Gano said 100 snowplows, trucks and other equipment were activated to 24-hour operation until the snow stops.
“We’re looking at 8 inches followed by some ice so that’s going to be a wonderful complication and I think I’ve seen the forecast for Jan. 1 which has another 4 to 5 inches,” he said.
Another winter storm looms in the forecast later this week. Forecasters are looking ahead to a New Year's Day snow, but the forecast was still a bit in the air as of Wednesday afternoon. The National Weather Service was confident that a winter system would impact the southeast half of the state, with the area at a more than 60 percent chance of a 1 inch or more snowfall.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.