Winter storm surprises National Weather Service, local officials

A snow storm set to hit southeast Iowa breezed northward unexpectedly Tuesday, leaving Marshalltown and surrounding areas with snow accumulation many expected to sweep in Thursday.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning Tuesday that will remain in effect until noon Wednesday.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 6.5 inches of snow had already blanketed Story County, the station nearest Marshalltown that had sent in updates to the National Weather Service in Des Moines as of late Tuesday afternoon.

Kevin Skow, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said the storm traveled farther northwest than meteorologists had expected. The NWS had forecasted snow for southeast Iowa Monday night and into Tuesday, but the low pressure front threw them for a loop when it blew snow northward.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the storm was set to continue into the evening.

Another 5 to 6 inches of snow was set to accumulate throughout Tuesday night. Winds ranged from 20 to 25 mph with gusts upward of 35 mph during the storm’s peak, Skow said.

“The winds will make it easy to get caught in the snow,” he said.

The Marshalltown Police Department put the city’s snow ordinance in effect as of noon Tuesday, prohibiting parking on snow routes. Police scanner traffic indicated slick road conditions caused several minor accidents in Marshalltown and in rural areas.

Lt. Ronald Ohrt, with the Marshalltown Police Department, said the collisions in Marshalltown were “fender benders,” and no injuries were reported. As of Tuesday afternoon, 18 collisions occurred in the county, six of which were in the city limits.

Marshall County Sheriff Ted Kamatchus said, in the county, most crashes took place along Highway 30, but that only a couple minor injuries were reported. Most crashes occurred when driver’s veered into medians.

“It came as somewhat of a surprise to us today,” Kamatchus said. “The wind caused a problem with visibility and made for harsh driving conditions.”

Rich Stone, transit administrator, said buses ran slightly behind schedule Tuesday morning but managed to catch up by the afternoon. If buses run Wednesday, and conditions are as predicted, delays in service ranging up to 10 minutes would be likely. He said he does not anticipate snow canceling transit service unless accumulation gets too far ahead of the Public Works department’s plowing.

“I anticipate us having a normal day,” he said.

Lynn Couch, Public Works director, said street crews will continue to plow into Tuesday night so that roads are cleared by Wednesday morning. Although the snow caught the department off guard, luckily, temperatures did not justify street treatment, which is typically only needed when temperatures get below the mid-20s causing the snow to bond to the street.

Areas of town where drifting is prevalent could prove treacherous, but Couch said street crews will get to those areas before most people are heading out for their morning commute Wednesday.

Marshalltown and area schools let out early Tuesday, the Marshalltown Public Library closed at 5 p.m. and Parks and Recreation cancelled its evening activities, all due to the weather.