The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

February 21, 2014

Weather shift could cause problems

By Brenden West Assistant Editor
The Clinton Herald

---- — CLINTON — People in the Gateway area have embraced the warmer weather this week. In fact, this is the time of year when higher temps can be expected during the last leg of winter.

But the frigid start to 2014 and snowfall as recent as Monday could mean short-term severity according to meteorology experts.

Tuesday's temperature spike of 50 degrees is closer to the February norm, said Harry Hillaker, State of Iowa climatologist. The colder than normal winter months have led to frozen ground as deep as five feet below surface in parts of Iowa.

So while the warmer weather is melting snowbanks everywhere, that moisture won't have anywhere to go.

"What's been unusual about this winter is we've been so much on the cold side," Hillaker said.

For Clinton, that meant 21 days with temperatures below zero from December to January.

"What's most unusual weather wise is how deep the frost has become," Hillaker said. "We've been on the cold side of normal since most of October."

Residents were inundated with 4.2 inches of snow early in the week. Tuesday's weather melted most of that precipitation creating massive puddles throughout local communities. That water froze again over the next two days and continued to melt Thursday.

The hazards continued into early this morning, with gusts reaching 50 miles per hour locally. And with a convocation of conditions awaiting locals — flash flooding, icy roads, rain or more snow — Clinton area weather observer Jim Blaess said safety starts to become a concern.

"When you don't have a thaw you have some of the problems where there's nowhere for the water to run," he said. "When the temperature change comes, and we've got all this water already on the streets, if it gets cold too quickly it'll all freeze. There will be a lot of problems with that."

The National Weather Service issued an advisory statement late Thursday warning citizens of the weather created unsafe travel conditions, especially for high profile vehicles.

However, both weather experts said there shouldn't be long-term effects for most residents. Not past the winter season, according to Hillaker.

"There will be issues for quite some time until we thaw some of the soil," Hillaker said. "We're going to have problems with things not being able to drain well for several weeks."

Once the ground melts, he added, Clinton can return to weather as usual in the region.