The Ottumwa Courier

Blizzard of 2011

February 1, 2011

Monster winter storm on its way

Southern Iowa in the crosshairs of dangerous storm system

OTTUMWA — Glenys Bolin knew there was snow on the way when she stopped in at the Lucky Rooster over the lunch hour. She wasn’t happy about it.

“I don’t want none of it,” she said. “And I thought we were going to have a moderate February.”

Bolin wasn’t the only customer talking about the weather. Owner Kelly Goudy said just about everyone was talking about the storm that started with light snow showers on Monday.

“It has been the topic of conversation today,” she said. “Most people are saying in the ballpark of six inches.”

What had everyone worried Monday wasn’t the snow on the ground. It’s what is coming today. And the numbers being tossed around at Goudy’s coffeehouse were optimistic, if anything.

The first round was expected overnight, bringing in a comparatively minor 1-3 inches of snow. Steve Edgington, head of Ottumwa’s street department, said the second round that comes in later today is the bigger worry.

“I’ve heard as much as 19 inches,” he said.

If Ottumwa receives anywhere near that amount, every single person in town had better be paying attention. The combination of heavy snow and winds of 25-30 mph will have major impacts. At best, it means large drifts. At worst it could force snow removal crews off the roads.

“Its been a while, but I have pulled them before,” said Wapello County Engineer Brian Moore.

Edgington said overnight hours can be particularly dangerous if there are large amounts of blowing snow. The snow reflects headlights, making it difficult for snowplow drivers to see what’s ahead of them. Like Moore, he said pulling the plows is a last resort.

“But there’s a point where I’m not going to risk the lives of my drivers,” he said.

Such a large amount of snow and wind would also extend the time it takes to get all of the roads passable. Moore said it could be Thursday or even Friday under a worst-case scenario.

Even on Monday, forecasts varied considerably because no one knew which direction the storm was heading. Ottumwa was guaranteed snow, according to meteorologist Jeff Johnson, but how much remained uncertain.

Johnson, who works with the National Weather Service’s Des Moines office, said his biggest concern was the wind moving in with the storm. Wind is perhaps the single most important factor in determining whether a storm goes from a snow event to a blizzard.

The difference between six inches of snow and 20 inches was likely to be less than 50 miles.

“The way it looks right now, you’re going to be in it,” Johnson said Monday morning. “If it doesn’t happen, whew, we got lucky.”

Bolin was just ready for it all to be over.

“I’m ready for spring,” she said.

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Blizzard of 2011
  • Facebook 3.jpg Southeast Iowa reactions to the storm

    We asked area residents to send in what they think they will remember about the Blizzard of 2011. Here are their comments.

    February 3, 2011 12 Photos

  • Stuck in snow Free snow; you haul

    Citizens are maintaining good cheer and their sense of humor during the blizzard cleanup.

    February 4, 2011 2 Photos

  • Good neighbors Southeast Iowa digs out

    Good neighbors helped clear Ottumwa sidewalks after Tuesday and Wednesday's blizzard dumped about 10.5 inches around town.

    February 3, 2011 1 Photo

  • Information Officer City’s snow crews focus on recovery

    Schools, some businesses and many roads remained closed Wednesday as road crews continued to dig Ottumwa and southeast Iowa out from 12-straight hours of blizzard conditions.

    February 3, 2011 1 Photo

  • ‘How are the roads?’

    One of the top winter weather questions has a mixed answer for Ottumwa.

    February 3, 2011

  • Winter storm crash Blizzard blankets heartland

    Forecasters say blizzard conditions overnight mean snow totals between 13-21 inches for the Ottumwa area by this morning, so officials recommend drivers go slow today and, if possible, avoid driving completely.

    February 2, 2011 1 Photo

  • Downtown empty Businesses struggle against storm’s wrath

    Some businesses make sure they stay open because bad weather is when their customers need them most.

    February 2, 2011 1 Photo

  • Downtown drivers.tif Southeast Iowa slammed by storm

    A huge storm blanketing almost a third of the country has southeast Iowa squarely in its sights. Story includes two reader-submitted photos.

    February 1, 2011 3 Photos

  • Busy gas station Monster winter storm on its way

    Two round of ice and snow are predicted to slam southeast Iowa and much of the Midwest this week. The combination of heavy snow and winds of 25-30 mph will have major impacts.

    February 1, 2011 1 Photo

AP National