The first significant snowstorm of the year is making travel difficult throughout the corridor this morning.
An estimated four to five inches of snow fell over night and much of it remains on the street as city workers are trying to clear arterial roadways. Officials in both Cedar Rapids and Iowa City warn that, even with plows out, travel remains somewhat difficult on main thoroughfares and highly difficult - if not nearly impossible for some vehicles - on side streets and in residential areas.
Cedar Rapids Public Works Maintenance Manager Craig Hanson said a fleet of more than 70 plows have been out this morning and have made passes on the major roads in the city. That doesn't mean travel will easy, however.
"The main roads are plowed but have 2-3 inches on them," Hanson said, adding he doesn't expect plows to start hitting residential roads until after 9 p.m.
Additionally, plows have not touched the center lanes, leaving 4-5 inches of snow in turning lanes. Swipes from the plows have also left close to two foot tall rows along intersections. Hanson warned that those driving low-riding cars will have a hard time getting around this morning.
"I went around several cars that had bottomed out because they were low-riding cars," Hanson said.
Cedar Rapids police Lt. Ryan Abodeely said the department has not had to run very many traffic calls so far today, save for a few squad cars that have gotten stuck.
"It’s been pretty slow throughout the night," Abodeely said. "Most people are staying home."
However, out in the county, Linn County Sheriff deputies have encountered some cars that have slid off the road, said Sgt. Richard Yoder. Yoder said there have not been very many traffic-related crashes and those that have occurred did not result in any injuries.
"I think people were aware this was going to be a bad storm and have stayed home," Yoder said. "I wouldn’t recommend going out until the afternoon until the roads that have been plowed at least once."
Yoder said deputies have reported seeing plows on Interstate 380 and Highway 13, but he suspects some rural roads won't be touched until Monday.
Within the Cedar Rapids city limits, Hanson said the main roads will "significantly improve" in the next couple of hours and be "fully drivable" by late morning. After the plows hit the residential streets, they will go back over the main roads early this afternoon and continue working through the day and evening.
"We will have crew staff from now until just before midnight," he said. "We have 24 hour coverage and we’ll keep plowing."
Further north in the state, the cities of Dubuque and Waterloo are faring well in the hours after the storm. Police departments in both communities report very few weather-related incidents. No major crashes have been reported.
"We’re doing okay," said Waterloo Police Sgt. Brooke Carter. "Thankfully, it’s a Sunday and people aren’t on their way to work."
In Iowa City, Iowa City police Lt. Bill Campbell said the department hasn't had very many weather-related calls today, but those that do come up are for stuck vehicles.
"Bottom line, there’s a good 4-6 inches of snow on the ground," Campbell said, noting plows are working on arterial streets, but many side streets are still thick with snow.
Having the snow storm hit on a Sunday morning, with both college and K-12 students on winter break, has helped, Campbell said.
"Having students gone and having it be a non-traditional work day, it makes things a lot easier," he said. "The volume of cars being lower makes a big difference."
Iowa City Public Works Director Rick Fosse said crews began to hit the streets at 7 p.m. Saturday night to work on slick spots. Once snowfall picked up after midnight, full crews began working around 3 a.m. and will continue until 8 p.m. tonight.
"Right now, we’re still focused on our arterial streets and getting those cleared," Fosse said, adding plows will move into the medium and low priority streets after that.
Crews will return to the downtown area at 11 p.m. where a snow removal operation will take place. Because the snow cannot be pushed into parking stalls and sidewalks, workers will have to blow the snow into dump trucks and move it out of downtown. Fosse said they hope to have that process complete but sunrise on Monday.
"So far, it’s going well," Fosse said of plowing throughout the city. "The storm's duration was shorter than what was projected. It started later and ended sooner, but we did get a lot of snow during that period."
A snow emergency has not yet been called in Iowa City. In Cedar Rapids, snow routes are in effect and no parking is allowed on those routes. Residents are asked to park on the even side of the street so plows can get by. Streets that are unsafe because of parked cars will not be plowed, Hanson said.
Hanson also advised that this snow fall is heavier than previous storms this year and shoveling will be more difficult. He also warned that some sidewalks were not adequately treated for the ice that fell on Friday and could still be slippery beneath the snow.