Clarke county, Iowa
Days after Thanksgiving 2018, snow covered Osceola and surrounding areas. By early evening, the blizzard produced 16 inches of snow as the town came to a halt. Across the state, hundreds of planes were grounded, and many major highways closed. In the morning, a charter bus headed for Branson, Missouri slid on Interstate 35 and blocked the road for hours causing significant delays. No one was injured in the accident, but travelers were taken to an Osceola hotel for the night. Later in the evening, a semi-trailer jackknifed, causing many drivers further delays.
Sgt. Nathan Ludwig with the Iowa State Patrol reported that the agency had responded to 86 weather-related accidents and assisted 126 stranded motorists. By the end of the blizzard, the numbers would rise to 93 crashes and 131 drivers.
Back in Osceola, the snow would cause more than accidents.
Byron Jimmerson, of Clarke County Emergency Management, said, “We’ve got them set up for the night, so when the tow ban is lifted, and the road conditions improve, we’ll be getting folks on their way.” City officials provided stranded travelers with bedding, food, water, and other basic necessities to get them through the storm.
Mike Allen, Street Department Superintendent, commented on the work needed to clean up after the blizzard. “We only have three [snowplowing] trucks. We have south of Highway 34, east of Highway 69 and west of Highway 69 down to Highway 34. And then the guy that does east on Highway 69 goes and helps on the south part of town.”
“The Parks and Rec Department helped us out and did the depot and the sidewalks,” Allen continued. With only five men in the Street Department, more hands were needed to get the town up and running again.
“You feel bad because once you’ve gone in the middle [of the street] to keep everything open then you go to push it [the snow] all back, and you feel bad for the person that just scooped their driveway out because you just filled it again, but there’s nothing you can do, you’ve got to get rid of it from the street,” said Allen.
Even with a small team, the Street Department was able to clear Osceola’s streets in 24 hours.
Keeping the streets clear and safe comes at no small cost. The city typically goes through 400 tons of salt in the winter. An estimated 150-200 tons of salt were used during the November 25th blizzard alone. At $70 per ton, Osceola spent between $10,500 and $14,000 on salt during the blizzard.
While expensive, keeping the roads safe for drivers is a top priority. Resident Ed Park commented on the driving conditions, “You have to have an extra dose of patience to get through all of this. People (are) not making good choices and not being patient out on the road and (with) other drivers. Gets you in trouble every time.”
Sources: Alex Kirkpatrick, “Clarke County Residents Hit Hard by Powerful Snowstorm,” KCCI Des Moines, 2018; Tyra Audlehelm, “Battling the Blizzard,” Osceola Sentinel-Tribune, 2018; “Heavy Snow, up to 17 inches, Blankets Portions of Iowa,” Des Moines Register, 2018.