Thunderous snow

Winter weather made a literally thunderous return to the Fort Dodge area Thursday following a spring-like reprieve on Wednesday.

A snowstorm accompanied by several thunderclaps rolled into the region during the late morning hours. Snow continued throughout the day. Accumulations of up to eight inches were predicted.

A blizzard warning from the National Weather Service was in effect until 6 a.m. today.

No serious traffic crashes were reported although area roads became quickly covered with snow.

Perhaps the most significant incident occurred in Calhoun County, where a semi jackknifed on the Iowa Highway 7 overpass between Manson and Fort Dodge.

”We had the road closed for about 30 minutes,” said Lt. Kelly Hindman, the commander of District 7 of the Iowa State Patrol. ”But we got him back on the road and sent him on his way.”

He said the State Patrol did not respond to any collisions Thursday.

”Pretty much everywhere is slick,” said Greg Koch, the Fort Dodge public works director. ”It got pretty messy fast.”

Koch said that Public Works Department employees were divided into two shifts of 12 people each to handle snow removal during the storm. The first shift went on duty at 5 a.m. Thursday and worked until 1:30 p.m., when it was replaced by the second shift. At 9:30 p.m. Thursday, the first shift was to return and work through the overnight hours.

Ten snowplow trucks, a grader and a loader were in use, according to Koch.

He said the department was able to pick up all the trash on the Thursday sanitation collection route while dealing with the snow.

Webster County secondary roads crews concentrated on the paved roads in the rural areas.

”Our intent is to try to keep the snow removed from the paved roads,” said County Engineer Randy Will.

County road crews worked until 6 p.m. Thursday. They were to return to work at 4 a.m. today, Will said.

Paved roads were also the focus of crews in Pocahontas County, according to Walter Davis-Oeth, the assistant to the county engineer. He said Pocahontas crews would work from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

In preparation for the storm, Hindman said the State Patrol made some adjustments to troopers’ schedules.

”We’re keeping the day shift a little longer and we’re having the night shift come out early so we have enough people,” he said. ”It was helpful that the snow didn’t get here until after everybody had arrived at work and all the schools were canceled.”

Hindman said the weather was preventing people from traveling too fast.

”The fact that people can’t drive very fast in the snow is helping us,” he said around midday.

Lt. Joe Bates of the Fort Dodge Police Department said city officers were dealing with only minor accidents.

”We’ve had one accident and that’s about it,” Bates said. ”Everybody’s driving cautiously and safely.”

Sheriff’s offices in surrounding counties reported no accidents or just minor incidents in which vehicles went into ditches.

Bus service provided by MIDAS Council of Governments was halted at about noon Thursday as a safety precaution, according to Jay Kammerer, the council’s transit manager. Both Dodger Area Rapid Transit buses in Fort Dodge and regional buses in surrounding counties were taken off the roads.

Kammerer said regular bus service should be restored today.

The Fort Dodge Regional Airport remained open with one runway in use, said Rhonda Chambers, the director of aviation.

Public and parochial schools in Fort Dodge were closed; parents and staff were notified Wednesday evening. Iowa Central Community College was also closed Wednesday.

Fort Dodge public and parochial schools have a two-hour delay today.