Plows out as big winter storm enters state, could be pulled off later today if conditions get bad

MASON CITY — Forecasters say this formidable winter storm promises to dump up to ten inches of snow across a wide section of Iowa by early this evening and the whipping winds could make travel very hazardous.

Craig Bargfrede, the Iowa DOT’s winter operations administrator, says if you can stay home, do. “We just want to advise the public to be cautious and really watch the weather,” Bargfrede says. “If you really don’t need to travel today, it really looks like one of those days where it might be best to postpone those plans.”

The storm is spreading across Iowa from the northwest to the southeast and the state’s big orange plows are working to keep the roads passable. “We’ve got somewhere around 250 plows out and about,” Bargfrede says. “I just anticipate that number is going to continually increase throughout the day as the storm moves across the state.”

Safety is the top priority, he says, for both the plow crews and the motorists, and there may come a point later today at which even the plows will have to be pulled off the roads.

“That’s a local call at the garage level — once we get into incidents where visibility really becomes an issue for both our operators and the public,” Bargfrede says. “We watch that very closely and that’s a local call.”

The DOT has 101 maintenance garages statewide that employ more than 1,000 full-time equipment operators, mechanics, and supervisors. Those garages house the agency’s 902 trucks, 42 motor graders, and 32 tow plows. Brine solution has already been spread on many hundreds of miles of Iowa roads, but even with all of the preparation and technology, sometimes the plow crews have to surrender to the elements and pull off the road.

“If we do get the winds that they’re forecasting in the 25-30 mile an hour range, that’s going to create some visibility issues for us and for the traveling public as well,” Bargfrede says. “It’s very possible we could see some real impacts on being able to get out there, get at that snow and get it cleaned off.”

While salt has been in short supply in previous years, Bargfrede says Iowa started the winter season with an excellent stockpile of some 240,000 tons. Keep up with road conditions at: