The National Weather Service has issued a blizzard warning from six this evening through three A.M. Tuesday, and that has the Iowa Department of Transportation warning travelers to expect severe driving conditions.
Dennis Burkheimer, the winter operations director for the D.O.T., says they expect, and are already seeing in northwest Iowa, 40-mile-an hour plus winds that will continue through tonight and die down in the early morning Tuesday.
Burkheimer says keeping the roads open in these conditions is hard because all the blowing snow makes it hard to see anything. Burkheimer says snowplow drivers and motorists both have trouble seeing, and sometimes you can’t even tell once an area has been plowed.
"So it’s one of those type of situations that we can be out there plowing snow and it may not even be noticeable to the traveling public, and we may not make a whole lot of progress," Burkheimer explains.
Burkheimer says district supervisors have the option of pulling plows if things get too bad. He says that can happen if visibility gets so bad that the plows are a hazard to the public or the snowplow drivers face a hazard, or if they find it’s too cold for their chemicals to work and the plowing is not making any progress.
Burkheimer says the supervisor would make the decision to pull the plows and then notify the state patrol. The D.O.T did pull snow plows based in Sloan, Onawa and Soldier from the roadways due to blizzard conditions around 4 p.m.
Visibility is described as "marginal" and road crews cannot keep up with the blowing snow that is causing drifting. Snow plows based in other parts of the D.O.T.’s District 3 will be pulled at the change of work shift this evening. District 3 covers Buena Vista, Calhoun, Carroll, Cherokee, Clay, Crawford, Dickinson, Emmet, Ida, Lyon, Monona, O’Brien, Osceola, Palo Alto, Plymouth, Pocahontas, Sac, Sioux, and Woodbury counties.
Burkheimer says blowing snow requires extra attention by drivers to the road. One of the key things is to have your lights on to see and be seen, and Burkheimer says keep your seatbelt on as you may hit an unexpected patch of ice.
The D.O.T. advises you to carry a survival kit with supplies in your car and if stranded, remain with your vehicle until help arrives. Use your cell phone to call 9-1-1 for assistance. For the latest road conditions, visit the D.O.T.’s 5-1-1 website or call 5-1-1.