State officials have taken the extraordinary step of closing major stretches of Interstate highways in Iowa. At 1:30 this afternoon, the D-O-T closed Interstate 80 from Des Moines to Council Bluffs and Interstate 35 from Ames to the Minnesota border. Interstate 29 is closed from the Missouri border to Council Bluffs. D-O-T spokeswoman Dena Gray-Fisher, says roads will stay closed until they get a break from the blowing and drifting snow.National Guard troops have been called out to rescue stranded motorists along Interstate 80 between Council Bluffs and Des Moines. Iowa State Highway Patrol spokesman Sergeant Rob Hansen says conditions are bad as visibility is down to zero and there are numerous areas that are too slick for cars to move across them. The Patrol does not recommend travel anywhere in Iowa.Hansen says there are a number of cars and semis in the ditches, but they won’t be removed until conditions improve.Thousands of Iowans are without power due to the ice and wind. MidAmerican Energy spokesman Kevin Waetke says crews are working to restore electricity, but it’ll be a while.Ten thousand customers in southwest Iowa are powerless, including in Red Oak, Emerson, Hamburg, Thurman and Sidney. Waetke says the ice-laden power lines are being hit by strong gusts — and snapping.Waetke says it may still be many hours before power is restored.About 10-thousand Alliant Energy customers in Marshalltown, Nevada, Guthrie Center, Maxwell, Iowa Falls and Perry lost power early this morning, but Alliant spokesman John Ruff says they’ve switched many back on, only to have the wind knock out power again to some of those customers, and others.Ruff says in the last 24 hours, utility crews have faced every element Mother Nature could throw at ’em. Ruff says some transmission lines have been automatically shut down, as a precaution to prevent lines from banging into each other and breaking free and shorting out.
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