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OTTUMWA — A combination of dangerously cold air and icy roads led most area schools to cancel classes Thursday as winter blasted southern Iowa.

Snow wasn’t the big problem this time, though it fell steadily through much of the day Wednesday. Temperatures fell slowly after noon, but stuck near freezing. That meant snow on the roads turned to slush.

Temperatures fell off a cliff after the cold front moved through. At 9 pm. it was freezing in Ottumwa. An hour later it was 19 degrees and still falling. The low came as the sun rose, dropping Ottumwa to -6.

Wind picked up to more than 20 mph, pushing wind cills to more than 30 below at times.

Thursday will remain cold, with blustery winds and a high in the single digits. Overnight temperatures will again drop below zero.

But there is a big difference between this cold blast and last year’s extended deep freeze. The cold air is not expected to hang on. Friday’s high should be back in the 20s, still below normal but much improved. Weekend temperatures should be back in the 40s.

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