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Storm causes delays, cancellations

Blizzard conditions keep residents snowed in over weekend

December 14, 2010
By Michael Tidemann and David Swartz

Just in case everyone forgot, Mother Nature gave everyone a vivid reminder of what winter was like this past weekend.

Traffic in much of northwestern Iowa came to a virtual standstill as first freezing rain then drifting snow blocked roads, putting a crimp in travel and Christmas shopping for area residents.

Emmet County Emergency Management Directory Terry Reekers said most reports indicate the area received between four and six inches of snow, though it was difficult to tell with all the drifting snow.

Article Photos

A return of winter—Whether it was a shovel, snowblower or loader, people were clearing out from under this past weekend’s story in Estherville, including Library Square.
EDN photo by Michael Tidemann

Reekers said the National Weather Service was forecasting 14 inches of snow at one time on Saturday.

"If that was the case, we'd still be digging out," he said Monday. "We have had worse storms before, but not one where the temperature dropped so quickly which is what made it dangerous."

Temperatures were around 35 degrees Friday evening, but plummeted to single digits by Saturday evening. Winds blew between 35 and 40 miles per hour throughout Saturday with a high gust of 66 miles per hour creating dangerous wind chills.

For the most part, residents were smart and stayed home.

"This was a well publicized storm and not one that snuck up on us," said Reekers. "Still we had a couple people getting stuck.

"Most residents remember the blizzard of 75 where they were stranded for three days," he said. "Thankfully we came out as well as we did."

Reekers said with visibility down to zero, state plows were pulled before noon on Saturday. Closing those roads earlyin the day cut down on the amount of traffic.

"We had both state and county crews lined up in case of emergencies," Reekers said.

With winds dying down by Sunday, county road crews were out by 7 a.m., said Roger Patocka, Emmet County engineer. Patocka said crews worked through Sunday afternoon.

"They aren't in too bad of shape," said Patocka, noting that by Sunday evening crews had covered most major routes.

Within Estherville, most church services were canceled or postponed until later in the day.

According to Estherville City Administrator Penny Clayton street crews opened priority routes from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, but then didn't return until 6 a.m. Sunday morning.

City crews were back on the job between 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Sunday and then were out from 1 a.m. ? to 4:30 on Monday.

Estherville police chief Eric Milburn said calls were prioritized as they came in during the storm. Milburn said there were two ambulance calls and a couple stranded motorists.

Ed Greving, owner of the Estherville Sear's store, reported a gangbuster snowblower business both Sunday and Monday, with 12 machines moving out the door by early Monday afternoon.

"Yeah, we sold quite a few of them," Greving said. "There's certain ones we can't order anymore."

Weather made for late starts at all area schools and Iowa Lakes Community College Monday. The college, which is in the midst of semester finals, had to reschedule exams for a number of classes. Unless professors indicated otherwise, makeup exams were rescheduled for Thursday, Dec. 16 at the same time and in the same room as the originally scheduled final exam.

As would be expected, Randy Cody at Randy's Body and Wrecker in Estherville had a busy weekend. Cody said he pulled out several vehicles Saturday night and Sunday.

"Sunday was busy all day pulling people out," Cody said. He said he also pulled out a semi near Gruver Saturday afternoon.



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