February 21, 2024

TRAVEL NOT ADVISED: Two snow storms hammer Adair County

By Sunday, one lane of traffic was open through a large drift north of Greenfield on 220th Street. Into Monday and Tuesday, county crews were still working to open rural roads back up.

“Travel not advised” was a phrase prevalent in news coverage over the last week, perhaps more than in any other winter storm in recent memory for this area. Most anybody who experienced the storm that pummeled Adair County in the last week will be quick to tell you why.

A storm bringing upward of 9 inches of snow entered the area late Thursday night and lasted into Saturday. With it came high winds that brought about blizzard conditions.

Another problem is that this storm compounded efforts to clean up from a storm that had left the area only hours before. A storm brought 9 inches of heavy, wet snow Monday night through Tuesday night.

Many homeowners and snow removal professionals across the area called the first snow very hard to move. The second storm just made it worse, said County Engineer Nick Kauffman, whose crews were still working Tuesday to open many rural roads around the county.

Record low wind chills exceeding 45 degrees below zero stiffened the challenge, as did blowing snow and severe drifting. Kauffman said the heaviest equipment the county normally uses for snow removal couldn’t do the job, so they’re resorting to larger equipment. In some cases, equipment has broken down and alternative options have had to be found.

“The blowing snow plugged air filters on our trucks and motorgraders. Of course, the cold on Sunday caused some issues with fuel filters plugging. All progress Friday and Saturday was negated by the continuously blowing snow,” Kauffman said. “We had employees staying in town because they couldn’t get back home after plowing all day.”

The county road crews were also helpful to emergency responders more than once, when ambulances or fire departments were tasked with responding to an emergency on rural roads that hadn’t been opened yet.

Sheriff Jeff Vandewater said he was very impressed with the teamwork various entities displayed in coming to the aid of those in need, even in the tough conditions.

Conditions were improving greatly on paved roads by Sunday morning, though nearly all churches canceled weekly services due to the drifts on rural roads and cold temperatures.

All throughout the storm, the local grocery store did its best to balance keeping shelves stocked and the doors open, but keeping customers and staff safe.

Local convenience stores struggled to keep gas on hand as tanker trucks were unable to reach them with a new supply.

“I had to ask Secondary Roads to plow a path for me to rescue a stranded motorist in the ditch on a gravel road southwest of Stuart,” the sheriff said. “No office or department can operate independently of one another, because at some point, we all must ask for help. And to best serve the public, those relationships must have been built in advance. Overall, I think it went very well in that regard.”

School wasn’t expected to return until Wednesday of this week, and Thursday was the only day students attended classes last week. Nodaway Valley Superintendent Paul Croghan mentioned during last week’s school board meeting that virtual days being used were helpful, but were being used mostly for review. State law allows districts to use five virtual days a school year. Extracurricular activities were also on hold.

The storm caused many complications for farmers trying to feed livestock.

ISU Extension Beef Specialist Erika Lundy-Woolfolk said that in general, things take longer under these unusually harsh winter weather conditions. A simple chore that usually requires a half hour now requires much longer to complete.

“Haying cows, for example, the tractor now needs time to warm up before you can start, you probably had to move snow before you could get to the bale pile or even through the gate, you’re likely feeding twice as much hay right now too because cows require more due to the extreme cold temperatures,” Lundy-Woolfolk said. “I’ve talked to several people and saw a couple different posts on social media about the challenge of producers getting dug out and not being able to reach all their farms. Several, including my family, were taking alternative routes through fields to reach a highway to continue reaching their destination.”

Todd Lamb of Greenfield snow blows a driveway along East Iowa Street in Greenfield during the height of the snow storm.

Vandewater said that in general, he reminds residents that there are things they can do to prepare for storms like these. His reminders range from building and maintaining good relationships with neighbors to stocking up on essential food and supplies before a storm hits.

“Individual preparation, especially in the country, is vital,” Vandewater said. “An adequate supply of the necessities to include a fuel source for heat, medications, food, water, etc., are vital. I think it’s easy to forget and fail to plan as we have not had a significant storm like this for a number of years. This storm has proven that it’s better to be overprepared than unprepared.”