One for the record books

(Above) Travel by foot, or heavy machinery was about the only way to get around after the storm moved out Sunday. -Reporter photo by Chris Barragy.

Winter Storm Uma dumps 16+ inches

by Lowell Washburn

Vehicles in the ditch were a common site Saturday and Sunday. Icy conditions under the snow sent the blue semi truck into the median just short of making it to the turn lane along Highway 18. The red semi was waiting in line to turn into the packed Pilot Truck Stop on the south side of the highway.-Reporter photo by Chris Barragy.

Promises. Promises. Promises.  After a full season of hyping those great big winter snow storms that never ever materialized, the Weather Channel finally got it right.  Dubbed by the channel as Winter Storm Uma, the massive system that plowed across parts of Iowa Friday night was a real winter powerhouse.  No matter how you gauged it, this was one storm that truly lived up to its hype.

For those who are familiar with Northern Iowa, but currently living somewhere within the steamy reaches of America’s Southern Banana Belt – a region best defined as any place south of Ames – here’s some of what you missed this weekend.

The fun began late Friday when the local citizenry was incited to action by the nonstop, near hysterical reporting of radio and television Weather Gurus.  Alarmed residents stormed area groceries and emptied shelves of basic survival items like frozen pizza, beverages, chip dip, salsa, and rental movies.  With crucial supplies securely in hand, most folks returned to their bunkers and dug in.

At Clear Lake, where my bunker is located, the snow flurries started sometime before dark.  By 8:30 or so, the intensity had picked up and it was really coming down.  By 10 p.m. it was snowing so hard that my driveway yard light was mostly obscured; kind of like it was shining at half throttle through a dense fog.  By now, it had already become the heaviest snowfall of the 2017 – 2018 winter season.

Things really amped up when at around 11:30, we began receiving a World Class exhibition of genuine Thunder Snow.  Claps of thunder shook the roof, brilliant bolts of lightning lit up the yard; all the while it continued to snow so hard that it was still hard to clearly see the yard light.  It had become apparent that this storm was the real deal.  It sounded like summer but looked like winter.  The scene was absolutely surreal.  The only thing missing was legendary weather caster, Jim Cantore going nuts on the front lawn.  This storm would have put Jimbo over the edge.  He’d have gone completely off his rocker!  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch YouTube’s Jim Cantore Thundersnow.  You’ve really got to love a guy who gets that thrilled over his job!

Anyway, the light and snow show continued until we finally packed it in around 1 a.m.  Fell asleep with the sound of thunder still rumbling.  Although it was still snowing at daylight (on Saturday), things were definitely throttling down.  Winter Storm Uma was leaving town.

Snowfall totals varied widely.  Depending on where you were in the area, we received anywhere from a foot to nearly 20-inches of heavy, wet snow.  Ponds and marshes that held hundreds of ducks and geese Friday afternoon became completely locked in (now frozen) slush.  The majority of ducks left the area; guess we’ll get to enjoy two spring migrations this year.  Speaking of spring migration, I’m guessin’ those early robins are wondering what in the world they’re doing this far north.

By Saturday afternoon, many of the local hard surface roads were plowed and I decided to go hawkin’ for the last hour or so of daylight.  Never saw a rabbit or even a single track.  Guess, everyone was still dug in; sleeping off the effects of a truly remarkable weather event.  One for the Record Book, Winter Storm Uma may be gone, but she’s certainly not forgotten.

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