Friday’s snowfall created havoc for lots of motorists as an accident caused as many as 20 vehicles to go into the ditch on Interstate 35 north of Ames.
Snow began falling before 8 a.m. in the Ames area and continued throughout the day. The storm system crept a little further south than anticipated, dropping up to five inches of snow on Ames and Story County by the time it wrapped up late Friday afternoon, said Allan Curtis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Des Moines.
The biggest problem was the series of crashes on I-35 near Story City.
Iowa State Patrol Sgt. Nathan Ludwig said it started south of Story City with a four-car accident, but it grew as road conditions worsened and other vehicles slid into the ditch. The wrecks spanned an area from mile marker 120 to the Ellsworth exit at mile marker 133.
“There’s the accident and a lot of standstill traffic, but the highway is still open,” Ludwig said mid-afternoon Friday. “I have not heard of any serious injuries or fatalities.”
He encouraged motorists to stay off the roads if possible.
“You need to ask yourself, do I have to go out or do I want to go out?” Ludwig said. “If you do have to go out, slow down and take your time.”
In Ames, accidents as a result of the Friday’s storm were relatively few, said Ames Police Cmdr. Geoff Huff.
From 5 p.m. Thursday to 4 p.m. Friday, Ames police responded to seven accidents, four cars in the ditch, five motorist assists and one hit-and-run. He said those numbers are fairly low as it’s not unusual for Ames police to respond to as many as 20 accidents during some storms.
What is unusual is that the city’s snow ordinance had to be enacted for the first time in two years, Huff said.
“It kind of surprised us,” he said. “This might be the most snow we’ve had in a couple of years.”
Despite the inconvenience of the higher-than-first-forecasted snow totals, Curtis said the bitter, sub-zero cold that is coming is more of a risk.
“Calling it brutal might be nice,” he said.
Temperatures overnight Friday were expected to drop below zero and stay there at least until Tuesday morning, Curtis said. With sub-zero highs and low temperatures expected to plummet to minus 20 both Monday and Tuesday mornings, wind chills could reach 40 below, he said.
He said frostbite begins to set in on exposed skin in under an hour when temperatures are in the single digits and below zero. Add any wind, and frostbit can begin to set in as little as 10 to 15 minutes, Curtis said.
“We’re trying to hammer home that it’s more than just a safety issue,” Curtis said.
He added it’s not unusual to have bitterly cold temperatures this time of year in Iowa, but to have three consecutive days of subzero temperatures is rare.
“Certainly there will be some records in jeopardy,” Curtis said.