Dangerously low temperatures on the way


A cold spell had temperatures dipping below zero on Friday but record breaking cold and wind chills were just getting underway for a weekend of frigid weather.

State Climatologist Harry Hillaker said the high Sunday will be 2 below zero and will drop to minus 10 on Monday with a wind chill of what will feel like 45 degrees below zero.

He said the cold weather is due to a jet stream pushing northern air our way.

“It will be pretty cold throughout the next several days,” Hillaker said. “This is going to be the lowest so far this winter.”

Don Rowley, of Marshalltown, said these were some of the coldest temperatures he’s ever experienced Friday afternoon while walking downtown with Lisa Weuve. He’s not looking forward to it getting even colder on Monday.

“I’m not ready for that at all,” Rowley said.

Hillaker said Iowa usually averages one day a year when high temperatures don’t reach above zero.

“Some winters we get a lot of them and others we don’t get any,” he said.

Hillaker said with this recent cold snap many are talking about 1996. He said in 1996 high temps stayed below zero in Marshalltown for five straight days including an all-time record low -35 temperature in Marshalltown on Feb. 3, 1996.

A stretch like that is not expected as high temperatures are projected to reach above zero on Tuesday.

Kara Kelly, Red Cross regional communication officer, said the best way to prepare for the cold, in addition to wearing a lot of layers of lightweight clothing, gloves and a hat, is to take extra home safety steps.

Since Thursday, Kelly said the Red Cross has helped eight families around Iowa with house fires and bursting water pipes.

“It’s a good idea is to run some water, even a trickle, to prevent pipes from freezing,” Kelly said. “Also, open up your kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow the warm air to circulate in and around the pipes.”

To prevent fires, Kelly said to never use the stove or oven as a heater and always place a space heater on a level, hard surface away from anything flammable.

“That’s really important, we have seen fires in the last couple of months from people using space heaters in non-conditional ways to heat their homes,” Kelly said. “Also remember to turn it off when you leave the room.”

For the car, a winter survival kit should include blankets, a first aid kit, an empty can and waterproof matches, windshield scraper, road maps, booster cables, a bag of sand or cat litter, tow rope, flashlight and extra batteries, a container of water and high-calorie canned or dried food and a can opener.

It’s also advised drivers keep their gas tank full or near full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.

For those who have pets, Heidi Drager, Animal Rescue League of Marshalltown director, said animals shouldn’t be outside for any period longer than it takes them to go to the bathroom.

“If it’s too cold and something you can’t withstand yourself then it’s probably not suitable for the animals,” Drager said. “If it’s too cold for us to be outside for more than 15 minutes, we really want to make sure these animals are taken care of too and have suitable protection.”

Drager said if animals have to stay outside, make sure to put them in a heated garage or structure more suitable than a regular dog house.

On a warmer note, Hillaker said, very slight or no snow will be expected and after this weekend the temperatures will increase.

“Once this next really cold spell is done it does look like we’ll be warming up, at least up to near or a little bit above normal the weekend after this,” Hillaker said. “That will be a nice change from what we got going right now.”

Marshalltown Schools Superintendent Marvin Wade said if the forecast for Monday holds true it’s possible school will be canceled.

“When we see a wind chill factor of 30 below, that’s definitely a concern,” Wade said. “If a bus should break down, we don’t want to take that risk with students.”

Wade said they will monitor the forecast and make a decision over the weekend on the status of school for Monday.