Courier Staff Writer
Talk to most any long-time Ottumwan. They'll most likely tell you Iowa weather is a strange and unpredictable creature. But does a mid- to late- March snowstorm surprise them?
“Heavens no,” said Bob Warren, 75, a well-known Ottumwa track star and retired coach. “Many years ago, in May, one of the coaches and I were up at Newton for the Cardinal Relays. Our athletes would check in with us, but [the coach and I] spent most of the night in the locker room waiting for the athletes because it was snowing so hard. And that was May 8th or 9th. This,” he said Sunday, “is not that unusual at all.”
And talk about changing weather, he said. Warren recalls a time he saw snow flakes in mid-April. That was just in time for the Ottumwa Relays.
“The day before [the event] we had I-don’t-know-how-many feet of snow on the track. My athletes, I’m sure they must remember this, that I told them for today’s workout, we were shoveling snow.”
But by the time the event itself rolled around, all the snow was gone.
“That’s always been the thing for track and field: snow,” said Warren. “And change. I’m never shocked by weather in Iowa. As a kid in the 40s, I’d be working out and it’d be snowing and blowing. The next day, it might be a nice day with the sun out.”
It was rare to cancel track meets due to weather, he said. He once won several first places and broke a record during pouring rain. Now, he said, athletic events get canceled frequently if the weather is bad. There are times an event is canceled and a little while later, the Iowa weather is fine. The one constant in this state, said Warren, is change.
In fact, National Weather Service Meteorologist Brad Fillbach in their Des Moines office was asked Sunday how warm it got last year on this day. The temperature, he said, reached 71 degrees.
“[Tuesday] should see southeast Iowa drying out and warming up,” Fillbach said.
For today, he added, there may be some continued snow maybe mixed with a little rain.
“It’s the one thing in the Midwest,” said Warren, “you might as well be ready for. Snow, rain, changing weather.”
“We can still get snow in March and into April,” Fillbach said. “But this week, temperatures [look like they are] going to warm up to the 40s and 50s. Dry Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, as well as most of Friday. There will be moisture moving in [for] the weekend, but temperatures look like they’d be warm enough it’d be rain instead of snow.”
“It’s not surprising to see this,” said Warren about the snow in the air and on the ground Sunday before predicting, “and this week, it’ll warm up and we won’t even realize it was here.”