Courier Staff Writer
Schools, some businesses and many roads remained closed Wednesday as road crews continued to dig Ottumwa and southeast Iowa out from 12-straight hours of blizzard conditions.
About 10.5 inches of snow fell in Ottumwa, according to the National Weather Service. Many areas had higher amounts because of the drifting and blowing snow.
Ottumwa City Hall was open Wednesday, though some services were limited. The library was closed, as was the landfill.
Albia saw about 9.7 inches of snowfall, and Van Buren County reported areas with up to 17 inches of snow, according to the NWS.
As of Wednesday morning, Ottumwa plows had been clearing streets for about 24 hours, said Tom Rodgers, spokesman for the city of Ottumwa.
“Crews will continue to work until things are back to normal,” he said.
“Police and fire are on duty as usual, the waste water plant is in operation 365 days a year, and the plow crews are very busy with this heavier than usual snowfall.”
In Fairfield, crews are working just as hard, said Darrel Bisgard, the Public Works Supterintendent there. Though things are moving slower than he hoped.
“We’ve made almost one pass around town since midnight,” Bisgard said. “We have so much snow, we can’t make it through with the plows very well.”
Most of the Ottumwa’s snow routes were driveable Wednesday, so crews turned some of the focus to the side streets.
“City plow crews will continue operations as conditions allow to plow out all the city streets. It’s going to be a big job and this blowing and drifting is certainly affecting how quickly that can go,” Rodgers said.
He said that residents need to follow the city’s snow ordinance, but it would also be helpful if they could move their cars off the streets completely during the snow emergency.
“Every car that’s off the street is an area they can go ahead and plow. If everybody just did a little bit it would help a lot,” he said.
As residents continue to dig out their vehicles and shovel driveways and sidewalks, Rodgers warned to be careful.
“With heavier than normal snowfall amounts, folks should be conscious about their health. Please don’t over exert yourself,” he said. “And we do ask folks to not shovel or blow snow back into the street.”
The Iowa Department of Transportation stopped plow operations out of several of the eastern Iowa offices, including Fairfield, Washington and Mount Pleasant, due to extremely low visibility conditions Tuesday into Wednesday. Operations did resume later Wednesday morning.
The blizzard conditions began about noon Tuesday and continued until midnight, said Brad Small, meteorologist with the National Weather Service. At times, 1-2 inches of snow fell per hour.
In order for conditions to be considered a blizzard, sustained or frequent wind gusts are 35 mph or higher with little visibility, Small said.
“It’s about visibility; it has nothing to do with how much snow is falling,” Small said. “It’s pretty extreme. We usually probably average one storm like this a year.”
Looking ahead, the cold will continue, but there aren’t major snowstorms coming next week, Small said. There is a chance for light snow on Friday.
“We’re not going to see any melting, that’s for sure. Lows [next week] will reach zero or below zero,” Small said.