A winter storm warning has been issued for central Iowa, including Des Moines, ahead of a snowstorm coming from Canada which will hit Iowa Friday.
The winter storm warning will be in effect from 9 a.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Saturday for the following counties: Polk, Dallas, Story, Jasper, Guthrie, Poweshiek, Adair, Madison, Warren, Marion, Mahaska, Tama, Marshall, Carroll, Greene Boone, and Audubon.
Weather officials say these counties are forecast to receive 4-10 inches of snow. Travel will be most impacted during afternoon school departures and evening work commutes, according to the National Weather Service.
Here’s what we know about the storm:
How much snow could Iowa, Des Moines get?
Everywhere in Iowa is expected to receive less than a foot of snow, said National Weather Service Meteorologist Rod Donavon. The storm will move cut a path straight from the north to the south. A path from Estherville all the way south to Des Moines is expected to get 7-10 inches of snow.
Carroll could get 6-10 inches of snow. Chariton and Storm Lake could get 6-9 inches.
Places on Iowa’s eastern and western borders will get the lowest amounts. Sioux City and Council Bluffs could get 3-6 inches of snow. Decorah could get 2-6 inches. Davenport could get as little as 1 inch and Dubuque could get as little as a trace of snow.
Winter storm warning as ‘Saskatchewan Screamer’ to move through Des Moines
A strong low-pressure system known as a “Saskatchewan Screamer” will come from south-central Canada into the northern Plains Thursday night and eventually into the Missouri River Valley. North Dakota will get hit Thursday night before the storm moves into eastern South Dakota and southwest Minnesota.
The storm will shift into central Iowa on Friday and northern Missouri on Saturday morning.
“Difficult driving conditions are likely throughout this region as roads become snow-covered,” a National Weather Service forecast said. “Visibility will also be greatly reduced.”
Winter storm warnings were issued Thursday afternoon for most of Iowa. A winter storm warning is issued when 6 or more inches of snow is expected within 12 hours or 8 inches or more of snow is expected within 24 hours and/or could cause life-threatening and damaging snow and ice.
“Really, across a large portion of central Iowa, it looks like we could have at least a couple hours of an inch per hour rates,” Donovan said. “That would be generally in that 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. time range.”
Winds will increase to 15-25 mph. Some gusts of more than 30 mph are expected.
Iowa needs the snow. Most of eastern Iowa was classified as abnormally dry, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest drought monitor, which was released Thursday morning. Other portions were still listed as being in a moderate drought. But winter droughts make spring and summer droughts worse.
For every 8-10 inches of snow, only about 1 inch of precipitation falls. Through Jan. 13, Des Moines got 5.8 inches of snow this winter, which is 8.6 inches below average.
When will the snow fall in Iowa?
The winter storm system is expected to move into northern Iowa areas like Estherville around 3 or 4 a.m., Donovan said. Des Moines will start to see snow around 9 a.m., and snowfall rates are expected to pick up throughout the day.
“Really, the heaviest amounts — which could impact the commute — will be tomorrow afternoon in the early evening hour,” Donovan said.
Temperatures will be around 30 degrees at the start of the day then cool off, according to the NWS. Initially, some snow could be wet and heavy, but it should gradually transition to a fluffy snow.
“Our initial band of snow moves through, we’ll have a cold front behind it and that’ll increase winds,” Donovan said. “That, in addition to the transition to more fluffy snow, will create the possibility for some blowing and drifting.”
What’s shutting down in advance of Friday’s storm
Des Moines Public Schools announced Thursday that Friday’s classes would be canceled.
Officials said the school day was being canceled, rather than dismissed two hours early, due to the timing of the storm and the impact it is expected to have on traffic beginning in the afternoon.
Cities across central Iowa, including Bondurant, Grimes, Pleasant Hill and West Des Moines, announced their snow ordinances and emergency parking bans were going into effect.
Officials with the city of Des Moines encouraged residents to track plowing progress at DMSnow.org and follow @dmdpw on Twitter and Des Moines Public Works on Facebook to stay up to date with the latest information.
Officials also reminded residents that they’ll have 48 hours after snow stops falling to clear their sidewalks before they could face fines.