Interstate 80 and the Central Iowa Snow Storm – 12/22 aftermath

I was driving from Des Moines to Chicago on Friday 12/21 to send off my parents from O’HARE the next day. The seasonal affair was in effect as usual in Iowa. We started driving at 8am and we were navigating through the dense fog through I-80 and I-88. It was a black hole experience. The visibility was less than a quarter mile. Though, it was not so adventurous, we managed to reach Chicago around 2pm. I knew this would become worser when I return back to Des Moines as they had predicted a snowstorm across central Iowa on 12/22. I was checking the weather every often to make sure I plan my return trip safely. I decided to return on the next day and I wanted to take a chance against the predicted snow storm across mid west, the only place on earth where one could experience all unusual weather phenomenons on the same day.

My return journey was a roller-coaster ride as expected. I started from O’HARE at 4pm and I sailed through I-88 and I could travel only upto Dekalb (60 miles west off Chicago), where I decided to fuel and rest for some time as the dense fog advisory was in effect until 6pm. But, I rested until 7pm when the fogs were slightly gone. I resumed my journey towards the snow storm. I experienced severe winds gusting at the speeds of 30-40mph and I managed to drive through them. The temperature was around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. When I was nearing the Moline across the Mississippi river valley, the temperature started falling drastically. I experienced heavy rains and the fog was gone for the most parts of the sky. The temperature dropped to 30 degrees in 50 miles and as I was nearing the borders of Iowa, where the rain turned into snow and the temperature nose dived to 25 degrees.

The worser started, I could not drive as my windshield fluid was not enough to clear the blowing snow and I had to take an immediate exit where I filled my windshield fluid. I waited for 30 minutes near the gas station and then I decided to leave from there. The snow fall was heavy and the highway was already active with snow mowers spraying salt and premature cleaning began. But, it became very difficult for me to drive as the snow was 2 inches on the highway and it was not cleared for most part of the highway. I saw many vehicles falling into the sides of the highway and I even saw many trucks collapse on the highway. This was so dangerous as my speed was not more than 15mph on a highway in these hazardous conditions. I decided to quit my travel on that night as I was nearing Iowa City. I took the exit-242 to Holiday Inn, but there were no rooms left. The hotel guy suggested that there are some hotels near exit-246 which has less occupancy. So, I had to go back to the scary highway and take the exit-246. The temperature dropped to almost 15 degrees. Finally, I took the exit-246 and managed to stay in Hampton Inn in Coralville. It was midnight when I checked in. I planned to leave early in the morning when the weather subsides as it was only 100 miles to my final destination.

I recalled my stupid decision to travel that night. But, I learned how to drive safely and be extra cautious during these bizarre conditions. Nevertheless, I had an opportunity to witness the aftermath of a snowstorm which badly hit the holiday travelers across this region. I started my journey next day at 8am and I reached home safely by 1030am. I saw many vehicles out of the highway and I feel sad for them and hope they are in time for their Christmas eve.

Merry Christmas and Safe Holidays.

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