Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

CNHI/Southeast Iowa

February 18, 2014

Blizzard could complicate state wrestling tournament

DES MOINES — Heading to the state wrestling meet Thursday? Be prepared for what could be a major winter storm.

A blizzard watch will be in effect for much of central Iowa, including Des Moines, from 6 a.m. Thursday to 6 a.m. Friday. Forecasters say this storm will have plenty of moisture to work with, so it could bring significant amounts of snow.

The National Weather Service’s initial estimate is 3-5 inches of snow during the day Thursday. Thursday night will have blowing snow, mostly before midnight. Other forecast outlets are being a little more conservative in their predictions.

Zach Sharpe of the Iowa Storm Chasing Network said the storm will be “a big mess.” It will start with rain and plenty of it.

“It does appear that there will be even thunderstorms across southeast Iowa, but no severe weather,” Sharpe said.

The brunt of the storm won’t hit southeast Iowa. But that’s literally cold comfort for people who have to drive from southern parts of the state to Des Moines for the opening day of the state wrestling tournament.

Snowfall of 3-7 inches in some parts of Iowa will be common. That’s not so much for a state that can be hammered by a foot or more in major storms. There are going to be other complications, though, that will make this storm dangerous.

“The biggest issue with this system is not so much the snow, but the winds. Wind will start off calm to start off but will pick up Thursday afternoon. Winds will be sustained from 20 to 30 mph with gusts over 50 mph. This will lead to blizzard conditions by Thursday afternoon,” said Sharpe.

At this point there are no plans to alter the tournament’s schedule, according to Alan Beste, assistant executive director of the Iowa High School Athletic Association.

“Schools with state wrestling qualifiers have been notified that our intent is the tournament will proceed as scheduled. We have asked them to make decisions that get their wrestlers to the tournament safely and on time for their first session on Thursday,” said Beste.

It’s not just wrestlers and their coaches who could have to make some tough decisions. Families and fans alike flock to Des Moines for the tournament, which has a multi-decade sellout streak for the finals.

Those folks are on Beste’s mind as well.

“We also ask that fans make wise decisions regarding traveling to the tournament so they arrive safely,” he said.

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