DOT urges caution as winter storm approaches

News, Weather

December 18th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

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. The storm’s 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 is offering several tips for safe winter travel during the impending storm. First, they say to ask yourself  “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 Or simply call 511 (within Iowa) or 800-288-1047 (nationwide). Before you leave, let someone know your departure and expected arrival times, along with your intended route. Allow extra time to reach your destination.

Second, 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.

Another tip, is be prepared to 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, but  don’t use it while driving unless absolutely necessary. Your vehicle’s winter survival  kit should contain items to help sustain your life and the lives of your passengers should your vehicle become stranded. Those 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.

And remember: Use caution when approaching, following or passing a snowplow.  Remember the slogans, “Ice and Snow … Take it Slow” and “Don’t crowd the plow.”