Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

January 17, 2014

Instant blizzard surprises Iowa

Courier Staff Writer

OTTUMWA — Iowa residents were left Thursday evening with one basic question on their minds: where did that storm come from?

Sure, snow was forecast. But what a good portion of the state got wasn’t gentle, light dustings of snow. It was a full-blown, howling-wind-and-horizontal-snow blizzard.

According to the National Weather Service, the system resembled the summertime squall lines that form, bring strong storms and then disappear. And yesterday’s storm even had some lightning reported in the Des Moines Area, a rare phenomenon called thundersnow.

The NWS says the storm formed between 2-3 p.m. between Des Moines and Fort Dodge. Different air masses collided and formed a small low pressure area. That allowed a “small, but efficient,” storm to take shape.

Heavy snow resulted, along with winds of 30-40 mph.  Ottumwa saw gusts of 45 mph, while the strongest gusts in Pella hit 40 mph.

It didn’t last long. But even the brief snowfall brought 1-3 inches to the areas it hit hardest. The storm was enough to cancel school events and students caught out in it had long bus rides back home.

Here’s an animated radar loop of the storm from the National Weather Service.

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