Zero visibility, blowing snow —Factors in 100-car line-up south of LS

Blizzard conditions in northeast Iowa on Jan. 26.

Blizzard conditions in northeast Iowa on Jan. 26.

By Marcie Klomp

Around 8:30 Monday morning, Jan. 27, Terry Larson drove Kyle Johnson’s tractor to town and helped unclog a 100-car line-up at the Mark Loewen home (formerly Kalvelage/Fausnaugh home), three miles south of Lime Springs.

“There was a drift about seven-ft. high and maybe 100 ft. long, and there had to be 100 cars waiting to get through,” Larson said.

According to, Sunday Lime Springs and area experienced a west by northwest wind at 43 mph, gusting to 52 mph. Add that to three inches of snow that fell on Saturday and Sunday and that leaves visibility at zero in spots and travel treacherous.

Around 6 p.m. Sunday, all plows were pulled off the roads by Iowa DOT. Roads all over the area were being closed due to visibility or accidents Sunday night. Interstate 90 from Albert Lea to the South Dakota border was shut down about 5:30 that night and opened up again Monday.

Many churches in the area, including the ones in Lime Springs, called off services on Sunday. Also, pretty much all schools in northeast Iowa and southeast Minnesota were cancelled on Monday.

The mail did go through, but only on roads carriers were confident they could navigate. The rural carriers have to make an attempt to deliver their mail in order to get paid for the day.

By 8:30 a.m. Monday, the road to Davis Corners was pretty clear, but closer to New Hampton, semis were gelled up and traffic was at a standstill. By late morning, one lane of traffic was being allowed to pass.

Howard County Engineer Assistant Jeff Freidhof and the snowplow drivers were busy over the weekend. Freidhof said, “We’re doing the best we can to keep the system opened.” He added their job is much more difficult when there are vehicles stuck on the roads and the drivers have to plow around them.

All roads are a priority, but the county tries to get the hard surface roads plowed the earliest.

Some blizzard stories

• One of those stuck south of Lime Springs was a truck driver, who stopped at the Travel Plaza going north. “We were stuck for 14 hours. I had a T.V. and watched the Grammy’s.”

• Another couple who stopped at the Plaza were driving from Rochester to St. Louis. Going south was pretty good until they hit the line-up. They drove back to the Travel Plaza about 6 a.m. to wait until it cleared. She added, “One man stayed in his car out here all night.”

• A University of Iowa student was going from Rochester to Iowa City when he stopped at Lime Springs Sunday night. He ended up staying at the Mark and Ines Tibbals home. Ines explained, “I don’t know if he was driving by and saw our lights, or what, but he stopped and asked to spend the night. It was no big deal. He was a nice, polite young man, and we couldn’t turn him back in the snow.” He left right away Monday morning.

• After a busy weekend of Snowfest, sponsored by Driftrunners, members thought they could relax Sunday evening. Not true for Matt Miner and Jeff Zak. They got on the groomers to help out stranded individuals and vehicles.

Miner said Zak was out from 7 p.m. until 3-3:30 a.m. and he was out from 10 p.m. until 2:30 a.m. rescuing people.

“We brought 11 people in on the groomers and blew open spots for cars to get through along Highways 9 and 63.” The people were taken to Super 8 for the night.

• Sheriff Mike Miner said of the storm, “It caught some people off guard even though it was advertised a lot.” The sheriff’s department had around 44 calls from people who were stranded or needed help getting some place. “Forty-four. That’s a tremendous amount of calls,” Miner said.

He said Darwin Kueker and other deputies were out trying to help people. Kueker got stuck and was one of those rescued by Driftrunners. Another deputy was rescued by locals as well. “They were reporting only a few feet in front for visibility,” Miner added. “It was hard to get through and very low visibility.”

He was thankful there were no fatalities, and although some people stayed in their cars overnight, nobody was injured or needed an ambulance.

The above stories are the reason drivers are advised to stay off the roads in blizzard conditions. Although everyone in the area seemed to get through the hazardous weather relatively unscathed, the result could have been much different.


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