With the anticipation of a busy holiday travel weekend approaching, the Iowa Department of Transportation is cautioning drivers that the first major winter storm of the season may hamper some travel plans.
Storm severity will vary depending on location. The National Weather Service is predicting 5 to 8 inches of snow along a line from Atlantic through Boone to Waterloo, with isolated instances of 10 inches possible. Rain is expected in southern Iowa along a line from Bedford to Oskaloosa. In between, a rain/snow mix is expected. All precipitation is expected to change to snow overnight Wednesday before ending Thursday morning.
Winds are expected to become very strong Wednesday night from the north/northwest. Sustained winds of 25 to 33 mph are expected, with gusts of 45 mph or more possible. The strongest winds are expected a few hours prior to daybreak through noon Thursday. Blizzard or near blizzard conditions may occur with visibilities reduced below one-quarter of a mile from time to time.
The Iowa DOT recommends the following tips for safe winter travel during the impending storm.
Trip preparation – is the trip necessary?Often, delaying a trip by a few hours can give snow removal crews time to get the roads back to normal winter driving conditions. For traveler information, now available via the web, Twitter, Facebook or on your mobile phone, visit http://511ia.org/. Or simply call 511 (within Iowa) or 800-288-1047 (nationwide).
For information available from the Iowa DOT’s weather stations, including atmospheric conditions, road temperatures and traffic camera images, visit the Iowa DOT’s WeatherView website at http://weatherview.iowadot.gov/.
Before you leave, let someone know your departure and expected arrival times, along with your intended route. Allow extra time to reach your destination.
Prepare your vehicle and passengers. Make sure your vehicle is in good mechanical condition and its gas tank is nearly full. Turn on your vehicle’s headlights so you can see and be seen. Ensure all passengers are wearing their seat belts or are in child safety seats.
Use your winter driving skills. Do not use cruise control. Allow extra stopping distance by maintaining adequate distance between your vehicle and the one ahead. Avoid abrupt steering maneuvers. Lower your vehicle’s speed, accelerate more slowly and apply the brakes in a controlled manner.
Carry an emergency survival kit and other supplies.Carry a mobile phone for making an emergency call; do not use it while driving.
Place a winter survival kit in your vehicle. This kit should contain items to help sustain your life and the lives of your passengers should your vehicle become stranded. These items can include: booster cables, candles and matches, a flashlight with fresh batteries, extra blankets and warm clothes, nonperishable food items, a can for melting water, and a snow shovel. Sufficient supplies should be in the kit for all persons traveling in the vehicle.
Use caution when approaching, following or passing a snowplow. Snowplows generally operate at much slower speeds than other traffic. Snowplows can be forced sideways when clearing hard-packed drifts and generate a “snow cloud” that may impair the vision of drivers in nearby vehicles. Remain a safe distance behind the snowplow, pass only when clear and never continue to drive alongside a plow. Allow plenty of space when passing a snowplow because the wing of the plow blade extends out to the side of the truck. Do not cut back into the lane of traffic too soon in front of a snowplow truck because the blade also extends in front of the truck.
Remember the slogans, “Ice and Snow … Take it Slow” and “Don’t crowd the plow.”