Snowstorm in Iowa, Wis. closes schools

Other News Materials 6 February 2008 23:16 (UTC +04:00)

( AP )- A major winter snowstorm swept across Iowa and into Wisconsin on Wednesday, creating a harried morning commute in Des Moines and closing hundreds of schools and businesses in both states.

Up to 15 inches of snow was possible across south central and eastern Iowa, while up to 18 inches of snow was expected in southern Wisconsin before the storm moved on later Wednesday.

In Des Moines, school officials told nearly 31,000 students to stay home after 8 inches of snow fell in Polk County. The Des Moines International Airport remained open.

Hundreds of businesses and schools were closed across southern Wisconsin as the snow continued to pile up.

Nicole Rodriguez, 35, gave herself plenty of time to get from her suburban home to her job in downtown Milwaukee.

"It wasn't bad. I left an hour and a half early, and arrived in plenty of time," she said, but she said she did see some slipping and sliding on roadways.

Milwaukee was among many cities that put snow emergencies in effect from Tuesday night into Wednesday, requiring motorists to follow special parking rules so that plows could clear the streets.

In Iowa, over 10 inches of snow was reported in Marion County, just southeast of Des Moines.

The Iowa State Patrol urged drivers not to use several highways because of reduced visibility, including Interstate 35 to the Missouri border and Interstate 80 east and west of Des Moines.

Brad Small, a forecaster with the National Weather Service, called this winter Iowa's "coldest and snowiest" since 2000-01.

All the snow had led to shortages of road salt in many Iowa cities.

In Tipton, all the storms have depleted the eastern Iowa town's 150 ton supply of salt. Only 25 tons remain, and getting more will be difficult because a frozen Mississippi River has blocked barge traffic.

"You just got to roll with the punches," said Public Works Director Steve Nash. "We've got enough to last us for two or three weeks, but if this snow thing continues through March, then we could be in trouble."

And a separate weather system in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho has given the resort town a record-breaking snowfall.

Snowfall for the winter hit 127 inches as of Tuesday night, beating the old mark of 124.2 inches set in the winter of 1915-16, and the National Weather Service is predicting as much as another half-foot by nightfall Thursday.

For Coeur d'Alene, that has meant boom times for hardware stores, crunch time for street crews and down time for police.