Iowa Public Safety Commissioner Gene Meyer is urging Iowans not to travel "unless it’s absolutely necessary" due to the blizzard conditions sweeping the state.
Early this morning state officials began closing sections of Interstates and highways in far western Iowa. As the storm swept east, Interstate-80 eventually was closed from just west of Des Moines to the Nebraska border. By mid-afternoon, officials had closed I-80 from Iowa City to Council Bluffs, but at five o’clock I-80 was re-opened from Des Moines to the Illinois border.
"There are drifts four-feet tall in places across the Interstate," Iowa State Highway Patrolman Doug Cutts says. "…It’s white-out conditions all over the state."
Some drivers have gone around the barricades on the Interstates and highways. "There’s always some people who feel they need to get someplace and still want to go and they need to realize…it may be a long time before someone find them or comes to them if they don’t have a cell phone to call for help because these roads are drifting shut and patrol cars won’t go through these drifts," the trooper says. "It’s going to take the National Guard in their big equipment and the DOT with their big equipment to get to somebody and it may be a long time before help gets to ’em."
Trooper Cutts is urging folks to "heed the warning" and just stay home. His own experience behind the wheel today, driving in and around central Iowa, hasn’t been that rosy. "It’s been very slick at times. When I went to work this morning we had thunderstorms and lightning and hail and then we’ve gone over to heavy snow in a lot of the places I’ve been," Cutts says. "As it slowly came east, we’ve just been having to close down the roads as it came."
In far western Iowa, Interstate-29 is closed from border to border — from Missouri to South Dakota. Interstate-680 — the loop from I-80 to I-29 — is closed. Interstate-35 has been closed from Ames all the way to Minneapolis, Minnesota.
At noon today, Iowa Public Safety Commissioner Gene Meyer briefed reporters: "To demonstrate the severity of this situation, we currently have 50 stranded motorists near the Atlantic interchange on Interstate-80 and National guard people along with DOT and State Troopers are trying to reach those people now and remove them from the roadway."
Meyer advises stranded motorists not to leave their vehicles, call for help and wait to be rescued. "If you’re in a part of Iowa where you’re just getting rain, don’t be fooled," Meyer says. "When the snow arrives, conditions are going to deteriorate very, very quickly."
You can find out about road conditions by using the 5-1-1 hotline or on the Department of Transportation’s weather website.