Tow bans issued for 21 Iowa counties as spotters report more than 7 inches of snow in Des Moines metro

From staff reports

Editor's note — As part of a winter storm that could bring up to 11 inches to parts of Iowa, the Register is providing free, updated coverage throughout Friday and Saturday.

A winter storm warning was allowed to expire at 6 a.m. Saturday for more than a dozen central Iowa counties, including Polk, Dallas, Story, Jasper, Madison and Warren.

Snowfall rates were expected to reach three-fourths to an inch per hour, the NWS said, with rates of more than an inch per hour possible at times.

Share your snow photos: Email your best photos from Friday's snowstorm and they may run online and in print. 

More:Ahead of Iowa's snow storm, these Des Moines-area schools cancel classes, announce early outs

Important weather links for easy reference:

I-35 reopened, but travel not advised

Portions of Interstate 35 are reopened Saturday morning. According to the Iowa State Patrol, a jackknifed semi forced officials to close the northbound lanes of I-35 at milemarker 112, near Ames.

While I-35 is open, travel is not advised from the Des Moines metro area to the Mason City/Clear Lake area. The roadway is completely covered, according to reports from the Iowa Department of Transportation. 

U.S. Highway 169 near Adel is also closed.

Tow bans have also been extended to several counties in southwest and eastern Iowa — in addition to portions of central Iowa, according to the National Weather Service.

Under a tow ban, cars will not be towed unless they are in the way of snowplows or are a public safety hazard.

Franklin, Hamilton, Jasper, Marshall, Polk, Poweshiek, Story, Tama and Worth counties were put under a tow ban earlier Friday. A town ban was issued for Benton, Linn, Iowa, Johnson, Scott and Montgomery counties Friday night, too.

The Iowa State Patrol also reported that 207 motorists were assisted and 78 crashes were reported between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. Friday; 64 of the crashes involved property damage and 14 resulted in personal injuries. None were fatal.

In central Iowa, the Des Moines Police Department also reported responding to a number of calls for assistance Friday evening. Between 5 and 9 p.m., a spokesperson said officers responded to 14 crashes resulting in property damage, two that led to personal injuries, six reports of hit and runs, and 20 stalled vehicles.

Unofficial: At least 7 inches in Clive, Waukee; nearly 9 in Ames

According to the National Weather Service interactive map, which tracks official and unofficial snowfall totals across the state, 

Snow has fallen more heavily outside of the metro. Laurens, about two hours northwest of Des Moines, reported an unofficial total of 11 inches at 7:38 p.m. Closer to the metro, Ankeny reported an unofficial snow total of 5 inches at 6:35 p.m., and Roland reported an unofficial snow total of 6 inches.

Other unofficial snow totals include:

  • 11 inches: Laurens at 7:38 p.m.
  • 10 inches: Garvin at 6:30 p.m., Graettinger at 6:45 p.m., Algona at 8:20 p.m.
  • 8.8 inches: Ames at 10 p.m.
  • 8.7 inches: Nora Springs at 9:06 p.m.
  • 6.3, 8 inches: Urbandale around 9:30 p.m.
  • 7.4 inches: Oskaloosa at 8:25 p.m.
  • 7 inches: Marshalltown at 7 p.m., Clive at 9 p.m., Waukee at 9:54 p.m.

Amid 30-40 mph winds overnight, NWS urges caution before driving Saturday

According to the National Weather Service, winds were gusting above 30 mph north of Highway 30 Friday evening, and stronger winds were expected to develop south of Interstate 80 after 9 p.m. Friday and through Saturday morning.

Wind speeds as high 41 mph were expected in Creston. Speeds of 35-37 mph were expected in Ames, Carroll, Fort Dodge and Ottumwa.

Blowing and drifting snow is expected to impact travel conditions for much of the day Saturday.

Drivers are encouraged to monitor Iowa's road conditions at 511ia.org before attempting any travel Saturday morning.

Nearly two dozen flights in, out of Des Moines canceled or delayed

Nearly two dozen flights in and out of Des Moines were canceled or delayed as snow fell across the state Friday.

According to the Des Moines International Airport's flight tracker, flights to Houston, Denver, Las Vegas and Washington, D.C., were canceled Friday. Others from Denver, Houston, Chicago, Washington, D.C., St. Louis and Houston to Des Moines had been canceled, too.

Tow bans in effect for central, eastern Iowa as officers respond to dozens of calls for assistance from drivers

Tow bans are in effect for portions of central and eastern Iowa, according to the National Weather Service.

A tow ban means that cars will not be towed unless they are in the way of snowplows or are a public safety hazard.

Franklin, Hamilton, Jasper, Marshall, Polk, Poweshiek, Story, Tama and Worth counties are all under a tow ban.

According to the Iowa State Patrol, 95 motorists were assisted and 32 crashes were reported between 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. Friday; 19 of the crashes involved property damage, 14 resulted in personal injuries. None were fatal.

In central Iowa, the Des Moines Police Department reported responding to a number of calls for assistance Friday afternoon, too. Between 12 p.m. and 5 p.m., a spokesperson for the department said officers responded to 24 crashes resulting in property damage only, two crashes that led to personal injuries — both only led to minor injuries — five reports of hit and runs, and three stalled vehicles.

It doesn't take a lot of snow to cause a lot of crashes, NWS says.

According to data from the Iowa Department of Transportation, nearly 75% of weather-related crashes in Iowa between 2018 to 2020 occurred in less than two inches of snow.

The National Weather Service reminded Iowans of that data, and tweeted: "We are entering the evening commute. So far snowfall totals this afternoon have been on the light side in places like the Des Moines metro. Just a reminder — less snow on the roads doesn't mean you should travel at normal posted speeds."

Heavy snow is still expected Friday evening as the warmer air is pushed southwest.

Semi truck loses control, crashes into Iowa State Patrol vehicle on Interstate 35 near Mason City

A lieutenant with the Iowa State Patrol was assisting a crash involving a semi truck on southbound Interstate 35 near Mason City when another semi truck lost control and struck the lieutenant's vehicle, according to Sgt. Alex Dinka, a spokesperson for the Iowa State Patrol.

The lieutenant was in the vehicle and suffered minor injuries, Dinkla said.

“It’s crazy up there, (officers) said it’s really bad," Dinkla said late Friday afternoon. "The roads are really slick."

As of 5 p.m., the Iowa State Patrol has responded to 32 crashes throughout Iowa, 14 of which have involved personal injuries, Dinkla said. The crashes were primarily in the northern and eastern parts of the state, Dinkla added.

The Iowa State Patrol has also assisted nearly 100 motorists who have slid into a ditch or have needed a ride, Dinkla said. 

As Iowans leave work Friday, Dinkla anticipated the number of crashes and assists will climb.

Between noon and 5 p.m., the Des Moines Police Department responded to 24 property damage crashes, two crashes with minor injuries, five hit-and-run crashes and three stalled vehicles.

Des Moines, central Iowa see less than an inch early, but heavier snow on the way

By noon Friday, most of central Iowa had seen less than an inch of snow fall. The National Weather Service office in Johnston recorded 0.7 inches of snow, the Des Moines International Airport recorded 0.3 inches, and the Waterloo Regional Airport recorded 1.4 inches.

The initial band of snow that hit metro Des Moines caused slick conditions and snow covered roads, followed by a lull. Forecasters expect the snow to start up again early Friday afternoon and still approach up to 11 inches in Des Moines.

"The heavier snowfall rates are still on target to arrive this afternoon and into this evening," NWS tweeted.

Travel may be difficult during afternoon school departures and evening work commutes, NWS said. Des Moines Public Schools canceled classes Friday due to the storm, and many other central Iowa districts also canceled or announced early dismissals.

The Iowa Department of Transportation reminded drivers to slow down on roads that may be slick, and to approach snowplows — more than 200 were out statewide as of 8 a.m. — with caution. 

Those plows are equipped with cameras that give interested viewers a real-time look at road conditions; visit 511ia.org and turn on the "Plow cameras" feature for more images.

I-35 northbound closed near Clear Lake due to car crash, reopened at 1:20 p.m.

Interstate 35 closed northbound near Clear Lake, between exits 197 and 203, due to a car crash involving a semi truck, according to the Iowa State Patrol. More weather-related crashes are being recorded by the state patrol as well as the Iowa Department of Transportation.

The interstate has since reopened.

The National Weather Service in Des Moines warned on Twitter that the snow Friday morning "was just the appetizer."

"They main course is on the way for mid afternoon and through the overnight as more widespread snow and heavier snow rates arrive," the NWS wrote.

Much of Iowa's roads partially covered with snow, some completely covered 

By 11 a.m., much of Iowa's roads in the state's northern half were at least partially covered with snow, and in eastern Iowa, roads are becoming completely covered with snow, according to the Iowa Department of Transportation.

Shovels aplenty at hardware stores, but good luck finding a snow blower

For local hardware stores, the day before a winter storm and the day after are their most lucrative.

"We often joke that forecasters sell as much product for us as the actually snow event," said Kc Sloan, a service manager at Des Moines' Porter Hardware. "I've been here 20 years and it's absolutely true."

At Porter Hardware, ice melt and shovels are still well-stocked Friday despite a run on those items, and more, this week ahead of the "Saskatchewan Screamer" that is expected to drop nearly a foot of snow on central Iowa. 

Sloan can't say the same for snow blowers and sleds, though. They've been sold out of sleds for a while now, and can't seem to get more in stock. And supply chain issues have limited the snow blower inventory, he said. 

More snow on the way for Des Moines

An initial band of snow that hit metro Des Moines caused slick conditions and snow covered roads this morning, according to a tweet from National Weather Service in Des Moines.

NWS said there would be lulls in the snow at times Friday morning.

"The heavier snowfall rates are still on target to arrive this afternoon and into this evening," NWS tweeted.

Test Iowa kits need to be dropped off at Polk County Health Department by 1 p.m.

Those needing to drop off at-home Test Iowa COVID-19 test kits at the Polk County Health Department need to do so by 1 p.m. Friday due to the storm, according to the department.

"If you cannot drop it off in time, please visit testiowa.com to find a drop off location near you," the department wrote on its social media pages. 

Winter storm Izzy to create headaches

The Weather Channel has named Friday's winter storm Izzy, and said it is likely to produce "major travel headaches" from North Dakota down to northern Georgia and up to Maine, according to USA Today.

Some parts of the Midwest could see up to a foot of snow while the mid-Atlantic and Northeast may get up to 18 inches, and Southern states are bracing for a potentially dangerous ice storm. 

What is a 'Saskatchewan screamer'?

This type of storm is known as a "Saskatchewan screamer," according to Accuweather because it rides a wave of low pressure out of Canada into the Midwest in the winter. It is essentially the same type of storm as an Alberta Clipper, except that it originates farther east in Canada. 

How much snow has Des Moines seen this winter?

Des Moines got about 57 inches of snow last winter, about 25 inches more snow than average, but this year the city is far below its average. Through Jan. 13, Des Moines has seen about 5.1 inches less snow than normal and 17.1 inches less than last year. 

When will Des Moines streets be plowed? 

During small storms, the city of Des Moines only plows and salts snow routes. But during bigger storms of two inches or more, the city first focuses on snow routes — the 750 miles of arterial roads most residents use to get where they’re going. Plows eventually get to residential streets, but not until after the last flake falls, Des Moines Public Works Director Jonathan Gano said in 2020.

For the past several years, he said, residential streets throughout the city typically have been cleared within 24 hours of that last flake — a vast improvement courtesy of different parking restrictions and equipment.

“It used to take 48 hours to 36 hours to clear the roads when four inches of snow accumulated. Now we can do it in 24 hours when just two inches has accumulated. We’re doing it faster because cars are out of the way and we have wing plows,” Gano said. (Wing plows are better at going around corners, with less snow spill-off.)

Iowa weather:Here's why your neighborhood Des Moines street might not be plowed right away

Officials with the city of Des Moines encourage residents to track plowing progress at DMSnow.org and follow @dmdpw on Twitter and Des Moines Public Works on Facebook to stay up to date with the latest information.

You can also text "DMSNOW" to 96000 for text alerts about parking or "DMODDSNOW" to 96000 for odd/even neighborhood plowing alerts (affecting Drake, Sherman Hill, Carpenter and River Bend neighborhoods), according to Des Moines Public Works.

What are the street parking rules in Des Moines when it snows?

Snow routes:On snow routes, no parking is allowed on either side of the street. Plows start to operate when the city gets at least 1 inch of snow. Residential and odd/even streets are usually plowed after snow routes are cleared. The city issues an alert before this rule is enforced.

Odd/even: Some neighborhoods with limited off-street parking have "odd/even" signage, meaning drivers must park on the respective odd or even side depending on the calendar date. For example, on Jan. 17 — an odd number — park on the side of the street where the last digit on house numbers is odd.

More:Wondering what a snow emergency or ordinance is? Here's how your town defines it.

The city issues an alert before this rule is enforced, and vehicles need to move to the correct side by 7 a.m. to avoid a ticket.

Residential streets: If you don't see "odd/even" or "snow route" signage, you're on a residential street. Restrictions can overlap, but no parking is allowed on residential streets during snow removal.

Residents can easily sign up for alerts about parking restrictions during snow events via email or text, or they can check the city's Facebook, Twitter and website.

Des Moines snow parking rules:Where and when it's safe, and where you could be ticketed

In case you get stranded

Here are a few tips if your car breaks down or gets stuck, courtesy of the National Weather Service:

  • Make sure you carry a winter survival kit that includes a sleeping bag or blankets; sand for traction; a shovel; high energy food like candy or granola bars; and a coffee can and a candle to melt snow for drinking water.
  • Don't try to walk to help unless visibility is good and help is close.
  • Don't run your car constantly. It could overheat. Instead turn it on for about 15 minutes every hour.
  • Don't listen to the radio if you're having alternator or battery problems or if you don't know what's wrong with your car.
  • Make sure your tailpipe is clear to keep exhaust fumes out of the car.
  • Turn on your hazard lights and make yourself as visible as possible. During bad weather, more law officials are on duty, looking for stranded cars.

More:Winter driving tips: How to keep safe while driving on slick Iowa roads

Drivers should know these basics: 

Cold weather tips to stay safe

Cold, snowy weather isn't just an inconvenience, it can be downright dangerous. To avoid frostbite in freezing temperatures Polk County Emergency Management recommends wearing several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing.

More tips from Polk County to stay safe in freezing weather:

  • Keep all skin, including ears and face, covered to avoid hypothermia and frostbite
  • Wear mittens instead of gloves, a hat, water-repellant clothing, and a scarf to protect your lungs
  • Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages
  • Where possible, try and keep one room in your home heated to 70 degrees.
  • Eat high energy foods and drink warm beverages.
  • Beware of over-exertion; shoveling snow or pushing disabled cars can be very demanding, and should only be done by individuals in good health.

Tips 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.

Tips 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.

Tips for your pets from the Animal Rescue League of Iowa:

  • Puppies, small dogs and older dogs have a lower tolerance for cold temperatures. Let them outside only to relieve themselves.
  • If your dog is built for colder weather and enjoys playing in the cold, increase its amount of food, especially by adding extra protein to their diet.
  • Make sure your pet has a warm place to sleep that's off of the floor and away from drafts. If indoors, provide a warm blanket or pet bed. If you have an outside dog, consider bringing it inside. If your dog must stay outside, make sure it has adequate shelter and unfrozen water. The shelter must keep it warm and include dry bedding, such as straw. Do not use blankets outside because it will collect water and freeze.
  • Keep indoor cats inside. Cats can get lost in wintry weather and become injured or worse. If there are cats outdoors, provide them with a warm place to sleep, access to unfrozen water and nutritious food.
  • Dogs that are let off-leash during the winter, especially during a snowstorm, have a higher chance of becoming lost. Make sure your dog is wearing ID tags and has been microchipped.
  • Never leave your cat or dog in a vehicle in cold weather. The vehicle acts as a refrigerator, keeping the cold in and causing the animal to freeze.
  • Towel dry your dog’s paws, legs and stomach when bringing them inside. Chemical agents used to melt ice can be dangerous for your dog to ingest. Snow and encrusted ice may also cause your dog’s paws to bleed.
  • Never shave your dog to the skin in the winter. Dogs need their coat to provide warmth. Keep pets’ fur mat free. Mats do not allow the pet’s coat to keep the animal warm.

Where to go sledding in Des Moines

Here are two Des Moines golf courses where you can go sledding as long as there's at least 4.5 inches of snow on the ground: 

Grandview Golf Course, E. 29th Street and Guthrie Avenue in Des Moines: This course is similar to Waveland, offering entertainment to sledders if 4.5 inches of snow is present on the ground. The great views offered at Grandview, combined with open spaces and multiple hill routes make Grandview a great sledding destination.

Waveland Golf Course, 4908 University Ave. in Des Moines: The golf course offers hills for all ages, including short, long, steep and slow routes. Late-night sledding is offered and sledding is available if the golf course gates are open and when there is at least 4.5 inches of snow covering the ground.

More:10 great spots for sledding in the Des Moines area

The largest single-day snowstorms in Des Moines history

Des Moines has experienced countless blizzards over the years, including nine storms that dropped a foot of snow or more in a single day, according to the National Weather Service. 

New Year's Day 1942, when 19.8 inches of snow fell, is the largest single-day snowstorm on record. The snowstorm paralyzed central Iowa, according to a State Historical Society report on "Outstanding Iowa storms." More than two feet of snow fell from in a swath from Page County to Black Hawk County, according to the report.

"The suffering from this storm was intensified by the extreme cold following," said the 1970 report. Gale force winds blew the snow into deep drifts. The day after the storm temperatures sank to minus 15 degrees in northwest Iowa and 0 degrees in Des Moines.