Interesting Weather Ahead


Happy first day of winter. Better yet, happy first day of longer light.

It feels like spring here in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Early spring, to be sure, but spring. The weather is mild and moist and the birds are singing. There is fog in the air and the snow is melting. But my in-laws are warning me that there’s interesting weather ahead in Iowa. Looking at the reports, I can see what they mean.

The news isn’t being covered here on the ubiquitous CNN feed being displayed on the ubiquitous televisions here in the Best Western breakfast nook. Rather than send correspondents out like they do on their hurricane watches, they’ve chosen instead to do a feature on the artist who created the world’s biggest LightBrite representing the Last Supper. But then, CNN doesn’t seem to pay much attention to the Midwestern states, and the Weather Network has different things to say.

The weather from here to the Iowa border promises to be wet, but temperatures will remain well above freezing. As we head into Iowa, however, there appears to be a significant front. The forecast for Davenport at the eastern end of the state is a high of 7’C and rain until about 6 p.m. The forecast for Des Moines (in the middle of the state) is a morning high of 1’C dropping to about -12’C, with about 10 cm of snow.

That’s a significant front all right, so it promises to be an interesting ride. If it gets hairy, we’ll stop enroute. We know some good motels on the way and take it easy the next day. The good thing is that tomorrow’s forecast for Iowa appears to be pretty clear, so an overnight stay in, say, Davenport, should provide clear sailing.

We’ll keep you posted, and we’ll stay safe.

(Update: 11:28 p.m.): Well, we made it.

We ended up leaving Kalamazoo around 10:00 a.m. local time and for 7/8ths of the way, the way was the smoothest sailing anybody could ever hope for. Seriously, I was quite surprised and impressed. I’ve been making the run from Kitchener to Iowa for about ten years or so, and we always used to experience delays in Chicago on the I-80. Always. Even late on a Sunday night. It’s a bottleneck, thanks to Lake Michigan, and there are no alternatives. The US-30 highway is as busy and has traffic lights, I’m told, and the next east-west Interstate to the south takes us through Indianapolis, so you might as well face the traffic.

But I don’t know what they did, but Michael, Rosemarie and I can all now report that the I-80 is smooth sailing all the way through Chicago’s environs. I don’t think we ever slipped below 55 mph. All of a sudden, we were at the west end of town and saying to ourselves, “that’s it?! Where did Chicago go?”

However, as expected, when we passed Iowa City, the weather went south, figuratively speaking. We were lashed with about 20 minutes of freezing rain and then the snow hit. The snow was actually a relief, until the visibility started to tank. We eventually pulled off at Newton, thirty-four miles from Des Moines, and took refuge in a local Perkins (where the shot above was taken) while I regathered my strength and manually unclenched my fingers.

We struck out for the last leg, crawling along the Interstate. The trucks were no help. Those that hadn’t already pulled off to sit out the storm were going way too fast for the conditions — and I sort of suspect that those remaining learned quickly and pulled off as well. Instead, we formed convoys of cars and managed to pull through. I did notice a couple of cars and even a tractor-trailer or two in the ditch, but I’m glad we pushed the last few miles and made it safety. They’re warning people, now, not to drive tonight and tomorrow. The snow may stop, but the wind won’t, and the snow that has been dropped is that dry stuff that won’t stick to the ground but will instead blow around. If we had stayed in Newton, we’d have stayed for two nights, probably. Instead, we’ll hunker down with family, enjoying cider and company and a nice fire.

Vivian took this trip like a trooper. There were some moments when she got sick of sitting in the car, but they were few and far between. She is delighted to see her grandparents and worked off a lot of steam at their place. She’s sleeping now, and, after a hot shower and a couple of Advils, I’ll be off to bed too.

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