For the past few days, forecasters have been touting an upcoming winter storm that was supposed to hit the Quad Cities this week as the "most intense storm we've seen in 20 to 30 years". It hit us on late Tuesday afternoon and lasted well through the whole day on Wednesday. We did get about 8 to 12 inches of snow with blizzard conditions hitting our area by mid-morning on Wednesday. While that sounds pretty bad, it wasn't as bad around here as they initially said it would be.
(As always, you can click on the pictures to get a larger image.)
It was a heavy, wet snow that fell. Temperatures weren't too bad - hovering around the freezing mark all day on Tuesday and well into Tuesday evening. But the intense low pressure system that was responsible for the storm went a little further north on its track, dumping heavy amounts of snow West, Northwest and Northeast of the Quad Cities. To illustrate how powerful the storm was, the National Weather Service in Chicago recorded the lowest barometric pressure reading in 20 years as the low passed over the city yesterday morning.
Cindy was sent home from work early on Tuesday and was told that she may not have to work on Wednesday. The heavy wet flakes that started out suddenly turned to a sleet and freezing rain mixture late in the afternoon. That continued for a good portion of the evening as temperatures stayed close to the freezing mark through the night.
One highlight of the storm, the trees in the neighborhood had a beautiful snow-coating on them yesterday morning. The light mist, fog and light snow mixture gave everything a wonderful winter look. I sort of like the first snow when everything is so white and pristine. But it gets sort of old after, oh, about an hour.
Because it didn't snow that much overnight, Cindy was able to get to work - even though it did take her about 20 minutes longer than usual. The main roads in town were plowed, yet slushy. It was a slow commute for everyone this morning.
But that's not the story out west toward Des Moines. Upward of 12 to 15 inches blanketed the central counties of Iowa, shutting down the Interstate highways, downing power lines and wreaking havoc upon thousands who tried to get around in the deep snow and high winds. Drifts of 5 to 8 feet shut down rural roads. The cold air hit Des Moines around 1 a.m. They had their daytime high at midnight on Wednesday morning and the temps had hit the single digits by daybreak.
Being that we're about 150 miles east of Des Moines, the cold air didn't start hitting the Quad Cities until mid-morning. I was able to get out and begin shoveling around six a.m. At that time, the temperature wasn't too bad. There was a brisk breeze, but it wasn't any too cold. However, the snow was unusually heavy and wet, much more so than I've seen it in quite sometime. I could only move a couple shovel loads of snow before I decided it was time for the snowblower.
As I did our driveway and walks, as well as the public walks for our neighbors up and down our side of the street, it began to snow heavily once again. Big, ol' thick, wet flakes. It was coming down like miniature snowballs. Once I got the walks done, it had snowed about a half-inch on the freshly blown driveway.
I had to go out about 3 p.m. to run an errand and the temperature had dropped about 10 degrees and the winds out of West were whipping with gusts over 40 mph. I looked out at the driveway and saw that a one foot deep drift had developed across the pavement. I had to get the snowblower back out and hit it again. I'm sure I'll have to get the snowblower out once again this morning before Cindy leaves for work thanks to the 20 mile-an-hour + sustained winds we had last night. Since temperatures dropped to below zero overnight, snowblowing is not going to be as nice as it was yesterday morning. That is, if you can call anytime that you have to snowblow as "nice".
According to this map from Iowa State University, places south and west of Des Moines bore the brunt of the snowfall with totals of 15 to 16 inches common in a band from just east of Omaha to just south of Des Moines. Areas north and west of Dubuque got up to 14 inches of snow. At the Quad City Airport in Moline about six miles due south of us, they received about 8 3/4 inches. But the National Weather Service office at the Davenport Municipal Airport - about five miles to our north and west - received a smidge under 12 inches. So, I'm guessing we got about 10.5 inches of snow at our house. Just like the past four years, winter came in with a bang.
The Cedar Rapids/Iowa City area got nailed, as well. Upwards of a foot of snow fell throughout the I-380 corridor. Even though the roads were not officially closed, travel was not recommended on many roads north and west of Iowa City during the day.
One area where there was problems all day long was a 20 mile stretch of Interstate 80 from Grinnell to Newton - right near where I grew up outside of Kellogg, IA. Our house was a mile and a half north of the Interstate. The Iowa Highway Patrol had closed down the Interstate between the two exits for a good portion of the day due to poor visibility, numerous wrecks and ice-packed roadways.
As the weather deteriorated throughout the day in Eastern Iowa, the slushy roads began to turn to ice and travel began to be even more treacherous. I was supposed to drive into Chicago yesterday, but there was no way I was going to chance it. Authorities in both Iowa and Illinois had instituted a "towing ban" for cars who had gone off into ditches along the Interstates. I wasn't going to try my luck.
The sun is supposed to return today, but the cold Canadian air that was ushered in after the low pressure system took off to the northeast will only allow temperatures to climb up to the low to mid-teens here in the Quad's. Long range forecasts don't look much better in regard to the temps. It doesn't appear we'll see temperatures above freezing for at least another week.
So much for hoping December would be as mild as November...