The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

AP story section

February 4, 2011

Iowa reopens after snowstorm

DES MOINES — Iowa highways reopened Thursday, and Gov. Terry Branstad took steps to help the state begin recovering from the blizzard that shut down the state and killed one man.

A road crew found the body of Wayne Hendricks, 58, of rural Mount Pleasant, outside his vehicle Wednesday morning, the Henry County sheriff’s office said Thursday. It appeared he tried to dig his sport utility vehicle out of the snow and, failing, tried to walk home during the height of the storm Tuesday night. He appeared to have died of natural causes, the sheriff’s office said.

The blizzard that hit Tuesday and Wednesday dumped nearly 2 feet of snow on parts of Iowa, closing highways, schools and businesses. It took three days for road crews to clear hundreds of miles of roads in the southern two-thirds of the state and the last two highways reopened Thursday morning. Those were a 10-mile stretch of Iowa 83 from Walnut to Marne in southwest Iowa and a 9-mile section of Iowa 175 from Grundy Center to Reinbeck, southwest of Waterloo.

The hazardous road conditions made for an unforgettable night for two women who gave birth while the storm raged.

Michelle Cain went into labor at her home in Wyoming in Jones County on Tuesday night and delivered her fourth son with the help of volunteer paramedics.

She told The Gazette that she would much rather deliver at home than “in a ditch somewhere.”

Jennifer Beaman, of rural Jones County, made it to the hospital just in time for her fourth daughter to arrive early Wednesday. A procession of snowplows, fire trucks and ambulances guided Beaman and her husband, LeRoy, to Jones Regional Medical Center in Anamosa.

Leroy Beaman told The Gazette it took them two hours to go about 10 miles.

Branstad issued disaster proclamations Thursday for three Iowa counties to help with snow removal. With the proclamations, the Iowa Department of Transportation will help Cedar, Dubuque and Scott counties with snow removal and provide state money for their efforts, Branstad spokesman Tim Albrecht said. The Iowa National Guard is not involved, he said.

With this week’s blizzard, Iowa is approaching its fifth consecutive winter with more snow than usual.

The average snowfall for the entire winter in Iowa is 32.4 inches, state climatologist Harry Hillaker said. This year, he said, Iowa is at 31.9 inches, with more than two months to go.

Iowa’s all-time snowiest winter was in 1961-62, with a statewide average of 59 inches.

Hillaker said the most recent blizzard had some unusual qualities.

“What made the storm extra bad was that the most intense snow and the highest winds came at the same time,” he said. “That doesn’t happen very often. In most storms, you get the snow first, then the wind toward the tail end.”

Winds of 40 to 50 mph were common across Iowa, Hillaker said. In southeast Iowa, which saw the most snow, winds were gusting close to 70 mph.

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