The Ottumwa Courier

January 30, 2013

Blowing snow, freezing cold and icy roads

Weather forecasters warn of potential for dangerous conditions

MARK NEWMAN
Ottumwa Courier

OTTUMWA — With winter storms predicted to roll in today, it would have been nice to enjoy southern Iowa’s record-setting warm temperatures a little bit longer.

The potential fun was reduced by a couple of factors. For one thing, when Ottumwa hit 61 degrees Tuesday, it was around 4 a.m. Intermittent rain, dense fog and occasional thunderstorms further reduced the incentive to go run around on a “warm” January day.

The National Weather Service has predicted a far worse weather pattern for today.

“This would be a significant change from what you had seen,” said Craig Cogil, a meteorologist with the NWS Des Moines Office.

The agency predicted a winter storm with snow, cold and high winds because of two weather systems converging on Iowa.

“A cold front is moving across the state from the west,” Cogil said.

That’s lowering temperatures. And about precipitation, he said, “the storm currently producing the rain [on Tuesday] across southeast Iowa is coming from Texas. It’s now ... riding up along that cold front.”

It’s the rain from that storm combined with the chill from the cold front that prompted the winter storm watches, Cogil said, as the NWS believes we’ll see rain transition to snow.

“There could be significant snowfall, 4-6 inches, with strong winds during [today’s] morning hours.”

There’s the potential for more than just inconvenience, he warned.

“That first snowfall hitting the [initially warm roads] will melt. As the temperature continues to drop, that [water] will freeze, so traveling will probably be quite hazardous with quite a bit of ice under the snowfall.”

So with the danger of blowing snow and icy roads, is the NWS predicting any good news? Eventually.

The meteorologist said that the cold front will move through, then out of, southeast Iowa. It’ll be replaced by an “arctic air mass.” When told that sounded even worse than a cold front, he agreed.

“The arctic air mass will produce lower temperatures,” he said. “By Thursday morning, we’re expecting lows in the single digits.”

It could stay like that most of Thursday.

“The ‘good news’ is that overall, the cold snap should be relatively brief,” Cogil said. “It will get warmer as we head into the weekend.”