Update: Snow totals may be lower than originally expected; travel not advised with most roads covered

Amber Mohmand
Des Moines Register

The National Weather Service says dry air has led to updated snow total projections that are slightly lower than original forecasts. 

Snow started early Saturday morning in southeastern Iowa, leaving most roads completely covered by noon. That area will see the most snow — between 6 and 8 inches, according to NWS — which originally called for up to 10 inches.

Most portions of central Iowa saw snowfall by late morning, and as of 1:30 p.m. most roadways were at least partially covered. NWS now says the Des Moines area can expect between 4 and 6 inches of snow.

Ames may see 2 to 3 inches of snow, and areas north of Ames likely will see an inch or less.

"This could be a situation where you have one location that reports 3 to 4 inches of snow and just 10 to 15 miles north of that maybe only a dusting," the NWS said. "That's the kind of sharp cut off gradient we could be dealing with in this particular system." 

The NWS issued a winter storm warning for southern Iowa, including Polk County. A winter weather advisory is issued for central Iowa, including Story County, while a wind chill advisory is issued for the northern part of the state.

Saturday has a high of just 7 degrees in central Iowa, and a low of minus 9, according to the NWS. Sunday will reach about 11 degrees, a low of minus 5 and a windchill of minus 25. 

More:Frostbite is a serious risk for Iowans this weekend. Here's how to prepare for bitter cold.

More:7 things you shouldn't leave in your car in freezing weather

The watch calls for dry, powdery snow, which paired with strong winds could cause drifting that may affect traffic. 

A wind chill advisory is already in effect for northern Iowa, where wind chills could dip as low as 35 degrees below zero through Sunday morning. In such conditions, the NWS warns that frostbite could occur within 10 to 30 minutes on exposed skin or areas with inadequate clothing. 

More: 

Cold weather tips

For yourself:

  • Wear three to four layers when going outside.
  • Avoid going outside if possible.
  • Hypothermia and frostbite can occur in just a few minutes. Keep all skin, including ears and face, covered.

For your car:

  • Parking in a garage, whether heated or not, will keep your car warmer than parking it outside. Even a carport keeps a car several degrees warmer than one parked outside with no protection.
  • Electric engine warming blankets can be easily fitted atop your engine or on the inside of your car hood to keep your engine warm overnight, according to Lifewire.com. Other heaters include block heaters that bolt electrical elements to the exterior of the engine, oil heaters that take the place of a dipstick and coolant heaters to keep the antifreeze from, well, freezing.
  • Keep jumper cables in your trunk.
  • Batteries hate cold weather and produce less current, i.e. power, when temperatures plummet. If your car battery is more than three years old, have it checked out by a repair shop or auto-parts store to make sure it still holds a charge.

For your house:

  • Leave a faucet slowly dripping to keep water flowing through the pipe. The water can be captured in a bucket and used for other purposes around the home, like watering plants and washing dishes.
  • Open under-sink cabinets to allow warm air to circulate near your pipes.
  • What if there’s no water coming out of your faucets? Check your water meter. If water is leaking or spraying from your meter or the bottom is cracked, your water meter is frozen. Feel for frozen pipes. Pipes located along exterior walls are most susceptible to freezing. To thaw pipes, contact a licensed plumber or use hot towels or a hair dryer. Never use an open flame.