A fast-moving storm tracking across the Midwest brought snow to Iowa, causing traffic snarls and travel problems across the state on Tuesday, but a more powerful punch is winding up for later in the week. A snow emergency ban was declared in Storm Lake through Thursday morning.
Snow fall blanketed virtually every corner of the state with minor traffic problems recorded across the state. The National Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory for western, central and eastern Iowa with accumulations between 2-5 inches of snow.
Dozens of schools across the state were sending students home early, and accidents were reported across the state.
"This is a fairly average snowfall, but the fact that we've seen a generalized amount across the state is a little unusual to me," said Craig Cogil, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Des Moines.
Cogil said more potentially problematic weather was on the way later in the week. He said the National Weather Service is watching a strong storm headed toward Iowa that could lead to freezing rain and sleet in parts of the state.
The snowfall on Tuesday caused travel problems across the state. Along Interstate-80 in eastern Iowa, the Iowa State Patrol closed the east and westbound lanes near West Branch after an accident involving several semitrailers.
The Iowa State Patrol said the snow had reduced visibility and covered parts of the highway, contributing to the accident, and said two other accidents had occurred along I-80 in eastern Iowa.
In Davenport, city officials reported the snowfall led to some minor traffic accidents.
The snow followed another night of bitter cold in Iowa. According to the weather service, Estherville in northern Iowa was the cold spot early Tuesday, at 7 below zero. The warmest spot was in southeast Iowa, where Keokuk's low was 9 above.
In West Des Moines on Tuesday, the school district's fleet of 60 buses was running at full speed after more than a dozen were sidelined by the cold on Monday.
Transportation supervisor Richard Beechum said the problem started on Sunday when the temperature plunged from the 50s to the single digits in only hours.
He said the cold caused condensation to form in the fuel filters, and then they froze. The cold also caused diesel fuel in some of the buses to jell.
In Sioux City, frozen pipes were a problem. On Monday, a sprinkler system supply line at the Clarion Hotel burst after freezing. No hotel rooms were affected, but guests were evacuated. Water flowed into the fitness room, lobby and administrative offices.
The cold continued on Tuesday. At noon, highs ranged from 1 above in Spencer and Mason City to 12 degrees in Burlington and Muscatine.
Tuesday's snowfall was slowing as night fell and expected to be out of the state by the end of the night.
A stronger storm is on track to hit Iowa on Thursday into Friday, with a potential for heavy snow and ice.
Mindy Albrecht, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Johnston, said right now, snow is likely north of Interstate 80 with some mixing of freezing rain and sleet. South of Interstate 80 will be a mixture of freezing rain and sleet.
"If we end up getting freezing rain, it could definitely cause more problems across the state, including the possibility of power outages and damaged power lines due to ice accumulations, especially across the southern half of the state," Albrecht said.