Central Iowans are bracing for the first major snowfall this winter, as a system moving into the state Friday evening is expected to dump as much as 6 inches of snow throughout the Des Moines metropolitan area.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter weather advisory for southern Iowa that is in effect until early Saturday evening. A winter weather advisory means periods of snow will cause primarily travel issues, so drivers can expect snow-covered roads and limited visibility.
A rain and snow mix was developing over Missouri on Friday afternoon, and the precipitation will likely transition to snow as it expands northward into southern Iowa later in the day.
The accumulation of snow will affect the Interstate 80 corridor and the Des Moines metro area between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Friday. There could be light snow as far north as the Highway 20 corridor after midnight.
Snowfall will continue overnight into Saturday, with highest snow rates expected in the morning. Lighter snow could fall Saturday afternoon, and light freezing drizzle is possible in northern Iowa late Friday into Saturday.
The heaviest snowfall is expected to fall in southern Iowa counties near the Missouri border, and in south-central and southeast Iowa.
Winds will remain relatively light, so blowing snow is not expected to be a major problem with the system. However, drivers should remain cautious of slick and snowy roads. Make sure to check the road conditions at http://www.511ia.org/ before traveling.
The snow system is expected to move out of the state by Saturday afternoon. Saturday night will be considerably cloudy with lows in the lower 20s and winds northeast at 5 to 10 mph.
Sunday and the beginning of the work week will be partly cloudy with highs in the 30s.
If you’re hitting the road while flakes are falling, here are some tips for a safer drive:
Before it snows
Proper maintenance can make a crucial difference when driving in the snow. Most mechanics or dealer service shops will “winterize” your vehicle, checking all the vital fluids and internal pieces of your car, such as your battery and coolant systems. Easy-to-forget items, like windshield wipers and ice scrapers, should remain in good shape, too. And if you’re going on a longer trip, don’t let your gas tank get too low.
Snow tires are very helpful in areas that receive heavy snow, but even if you’re driving in a locale that only sees a few measurable snowfalls a year, investing in a good set of all-season tires is wise.
Your treads are healthy? That doesn’t mean you should ignore your tires. Cold temperatures can lead to lower tire pressure (don’t panic if that icon lights up in your dashboard), so you’ll want to keep a good air gauge on hand and be aware of your vehicle’s recommended inflation pressure. This information can normally be found on a sticker inside of your car door.
Check the weather. Obvious as that tip might be, it’s important to know what’s happening – or might happen. Roads could be clear when you start your workday, but it may be a different story when you head home. For updates, check our weather section or our apps to brief you on conditions.
If you do find yourself on the road with a layer of snow and the conditions are worsening, keep calm. AAA offers this advice:
– Accelerate, decelerate and turn slowly to maintain traction.
– Put more distance between you and other cars.
– Know your brakes, but don’t stop if you can avoid it. Losing inertia while in the snow can make for trouble if you need to accelerate again. This can be an issue when approaching stop signs or stoplights, so you might want to get a feel for slowly rolling until it’s safe to get through an intersection.
– Keeping inertia is just as important for hills. Powering up inclines can make you spin out, while braking means you might not get started again. You’ll want to approach hills with enough velocity to make the climb minus using the pedals.
Just in case
If you do get stranded, a well-provisioned roadside emergency kit is crucial. You might need shovels or scrapers to dig out, extra coats and blankets to keep warm, reflective markers and flares to mark your location and jumper cables if you’ve got a dead battery. Simple things like a phone charger, water and food might seem like overkill, but you’ll be happy to have them should they be needed.
Sometimes, the best advice is to just stay put. It’s easy to feel like you absolutely need to get to work or must reach the grocery store in our always-on-the-move society, but suppress those urges if the weather is too harsh. When the roads are completely covered and visibility is low, even the finest SUVs can falter and the best drivers can make mistakes. No drive is worth it if it risks your or your loved ones’ lives.