SIOUX CITY | Siouxland's first major winter storm of 2018 paralyzed the region Monday, dumping more than a foot of snow in some areas and resulting in road closures, power outages and the shutdown of scores of area schools, businesses and government offices.
Travel was not advised for much of the day as heavy snow and blustery winds created whiteout conditions, leading to a handful of stalled vehicles and accidents. More than 70 miles of Interstate 29 between Sioux City and Sioux Falls were closed down Monday afternoon, and both lanes of U.S. Highway 20 east of Sioux City were blocked in by two jackknifed semi-trailer trucks.
A tow ban was instituted across Northwest Iowa.
Some of the highest snow totals were expected in an area encompassing Sioux City and running northeast toward the Iowa Great Lakes. As of noon Monday, Sioux City had received 9.1 inches of snow, with 11 inches estimated to fall by the end of the day.
Meteorologist Brad Temeyer with the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls said Monday afternoon that the highest totals were expected in a band stretching from Vermillion, South Dakota, through Rock Valley, Iowa, and into southern Minnesota, where up to 14 inches was possible.
The area fell under a blizzard warning through midnight Monday, with wind gusts of 40 to 50 mph blowing snow across roadways and reducing visibility to near-zero throughout the late morning and afternoon. The snow tapered off in the evening hours, but winds continued to make visibility difficult.
In Sioux City, the weather halted transit services and shut down Sioux Gateway Airport from Sunday night to at least 9 a.m. Tuesday.
As of Monday afternoon, as many as 1,600 MidAmerican Energy customers in the Sioux City area had lost power due to storm-related outages in dozens of locations. Crews were on scene in Sioux City from the early morning hours Monday in preparation for the storm, with work to restore power ongoing.
Around 540 MidAmerican Energy customers in Le Mars also lost power for about an hour early Monday morning following an outage resulting from downed power lines.
County sheriffs from the Sioux City metro said there had been few wrecks involving drivers on heavily snow-packed roads midday Monday, but two semi-trailer trucks spun out just before noon on U.S. Highway 20 one mile east of Sioux City, blocking both eastbound and westbound traffic.
Plow crews operating in the Woodbury County Secondary Roads Department were pulled from duties prior to noon. While aiming to keep roads clear, the crews are not to put themselves into unsafe situations with poor visibility, said Woodbury County Sheriff Dave Drew.
In downtown Sioux City, City Hall, the Woodbury County Courthouse and the Federal Building were all closed. The Sioux City Council meeting was postponed to Jan. 29, and the Sioux City School Board meeting planned for the evening was moved to 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Some Siouxlanders also reported "thundersnow" Monday morning, a phenomenon that can occur in the middle of a strong storm front.
Conditions look to clear up for an extended period following Monday's storm. The weather service reports clear conditions with highs around 30 on Tuesday and Wednesday, with temperatures warming to the 40s Thursday and Friday.
SIOUX CITY – Iowa National Guardsmen and other federal employees in Sioux City and across the area undoubtedly were paying close attention to a deal in the U.S. Senate Monday that could end the federal government shutdown.
With promises of a Senate vote on a measure that would provide temporary government funding and reopen government offices scheduled for Monday afternoon, workers told to stay home Monday could be returning to their jobs as early as Tuesday.
With lawmakers unable to reach a deal to end the shutdown over the weekend, Monday was the first day since the shutdown went into effect Saturday that many federal offices would have been open.
At the 185th Air Refueling Wing, Iowa Air National Guard, 240 technicians classified as “nonessential” were furloughed, though many of them have scheduled days off on Monday, said Master Sgt. Vince DeGroot, public affairs superintendent at the Sioux City air base.
The furloughs would affect “pretty much every area” on the base, DeGroot said.
Guard members in security and safety details will continue to report for work, DeGroot said, and 185th members currently deployed will continue on their missions.
More than 900 full-time Iowa National Guard employees statewide will be furloughed, including workers at the 185th, the Iowa Army National Guard 113th Cavalry and the Field Maintenance Shop in Sioux City, said public affairs officer Col. Greg Hapgood.
“Certainly, it will have an impact on their operations in Sioux City,” Hapgood said.
More than 1,000 full-time National Guard employees remain on duty and will continue to work in an upaid status until Congress passes a spending resolution ending the shutdown, Hapgood said.
The federal building in Sioux City was closed Monday because of the blizzard that hit the area. Had it been open, offices for Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst and U.S. Rep. Steve King would have been closed.
Federal court proceedings were canceled Monday because of the weather, but are expected to operate as normal during the shutdown. Robert Phelps, clerk of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, said the federal court system would operate on funding that was held back prior to the shutdown.
“We can survive about three weeks,” Phelps said.
If the shutdown lasts longer than that, local federal court offices would be advised by the administrative office of U.S. courts on how to proceed, Phelps said.
The U.S. Marshals Service, FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies were not subject to the furlough because their officers provide security and are performing ongoing investigations.
According to national news reports, some federal attractions and parks were to remain open during the shutdown, while others may be closed.
The Lewis and Clark Visitors Center operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, South Dakota, is normally closed during winter months, though staff members do open for programs for schools or other groups.
It’s unclear if the shutdown would have any effect on the center’s annual Bald Eagle Days event, scheduled for Friday through Sunday.
A bipartisan deal reached Monday broke a filibuster in the Senate that had blocked passage of a GOP stopgap measure to fund the government. The House had approved the continuing resolution.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's commitment Monday to quickly tackle the issue of immigrant "Dreamers" was contingent on Democrats providing enough votes now for a stopgap spending measure lasting a little less than three weeks. The measure needed 60 votes, and Democrats provided 33 of the 81 it received. Eighteen senators, including members of both parties, were opposed.
Before the government can reopen the Senate later Tuesday had to give it final passage. The House must approve in turn, and President Donald Trump must sign the measure.