Area bracing for possible winter storm

NWS reports freezing rain and up to 8 inches of snow possible


LEE COUNTY – A potential major winter storm is brewing for southeast Iowa, and area officials are keeping an eye to movements in the storm.

Both Lee County and Fort Madison officials have regular plans in place to react to the storm, including having road personnel on call depending on what type of precipitation hits the area.

According to the National Weather Service at 12:30 p.m. Thursday, a winter storm watch is in effect for southeast Iowa including Lee County. The NWS has also issued a wind advisory until 6 p.m. Thursday for the immediate area.

Winds from the south are expected to be between 15 and 30 mph with gusts up to 45 mph, which could cause limbs to fall, unsecured objects to blow around, and possible power outages.

The current forecast is calling for one to two inches of rain Friday that could eventually turn to sleet and freezing rain making travel very difficult. Saturday morning the ice is expected to change to all snow ending Saturday night. The highest potential for freezing rain and sleet is extreme southeast Iowa, west central Illinois, and northeast Missouri.

The NWS report indicated that significant ice and snow accumulations are possible with blowing snow making travel difficult. According to mapping from the NWS at 3:30 a.m. Thursday, the area between Burlington, Fort Madison and Keokuk could see as much as 8″ of snow before Sunday morning. But the report also says confidence is low on the track of the storm.

Fort Madison City Manager David Varley, who’s overseeing the Public Works Department ahead of the start of Mark Bousselot on Jan. 20, said the city is watching the situation.

“We’re keeping a sharp eye on it. If temps drop we’ll have guys ready on call and if hits the way they’re saying it might, we’ll be out on the streets,” Varley said.

He said the city doesn’t pre-treat for ice, but we’ll quickly respond to ice conditions by getting sand trucks on the streets.

“They’re calling for rain Friday and then it usually just depends on the temperature. My guess at this point is that our guys will be out early Saturday morning.”

Lee County Engineer Ben Hull said he’s keeping up with the forecasts as well, and the county doesn’t pre-treat for ice, but will put the snow ordinance in effect when needed.

“We do not do any pre-treating, but it appears it will be just rain tonight and tomorrow,” Hull said. “So Friday we’re going to put the sand and salt spreaders on the trucks and then we’ll be monitoring the weather forecast and conditions overnight.”

Hull said he will have road crews on call and the county snow ordinance requires them to be on the road beginning at 5 a.m for any overnight accumulations.

He said the county can do pavement temperature testings but doesn’t have anything fancier and is monitoring the same weather forecasts as everyone else.

“We’re going to keep an eye on the temperatures and see what it brings.”

The winter storm watch effects 16 counties including Lee, Des Moines, Henry and Van Buren.

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