The forecast indicates wind speeds tonight will range between 35 to 45 and perhaps even 50 miles per hour across Iowa, creating bitter cold and blizzard conditions. Meteorologist Roger Vachalek at the National Weather Service office in central Iowa says over the past 24 hours, snow fell in most of the state.

“Because of all the wind and the cold weather, you’re not going to get the most accurate snowfall reports for this type of a system,” he says, “just because of the wind blowing around quite a bit.”

A high pressure system is pushing cold air across Iowa. “The cold air that’s coming in, because it’s high pressure, it’s going to increase what we call the pressure gradient across the central plains and Iowa and that actually drives the wind speed at the surface,” Vachalek says. “Then we also have another component that happens where we get some higher wind aloft that gets brought down to the surface and so that produces wind gusts that are higher.”

By 10 o’clock this morning, the wind chill index had already dropped to minus 46 degrees in Storm Lake and minus 45 in Sioux City, Sheldon and Spencer.

“That’s extremely dangerous to be outside for any period of time. Even 10 minutes will cause problems for most people. You can get frostbite,” Vachalek says, “…so we’re advising people to just avoid being outdoors in this type of situation or be very, very, very careful.”

Blizzard conditions are being forecast because of the snow that’s already fallen and the strong winds behind it.

“We may get lucky and maybe things aren’t quite as bad all the time in the next 24-36 hours, but there will be periods where you’ve got some very low visibilities and travel will be difficult across the region,” Vachalek says. “we’re again asking people that if you can delay your travel plans until either late Saturday or Christmas Day itself, especially if it’s only a couple hours’ drive here across the state, that would probably be best than trying to venture out either later today or tomorrow for sure.”

The Iowa State Patrol responded to 70 accidents between noon on Wednesday and 6 a.m. this morning. Trooper Paul Gardner says at least 140 motorists have gotten some type of assistance from a trooper so far.

“It’s Christmas season and people want to go see friends, they want to go see family and loved ones,” he says. “Hopefully this will be wrapped up by Saturday, which that will probably make for still somewhat of a sort of heavily traveled day…We still want to emphasize that some of these roadways may not be completely cleared off by then, but hopefully we’ll be past the brundt of it.”

Gardner says by mid-morning snow was drifting across Highway 20 and temperatures were causing problems for truckers.

“We’ve seen some calls for service of semis that are jelling up, so we’re responding to those to get drivers to somewhere warm, getting them to a truck stop,” he says. “So far traffic is somewhat lights on our main traffic corridors like I-35 and I-80.”

At 11:15 a.m., the Iowa DOT said several accidents and stalled vehicles were blocking areas of Interstate 80 and travel was not advised on I-80 from eastern Iowa through the Stuart exit in central Iowa. According to the DOT, the number of roads marked “travel not advised” has been growing as winds blow snow off highways, uncovering the ice below and creating drifts in other areas.

Radio Iowa