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Blizzard

North Iowans dig out after another round of snow and blizzard conditions made for treacherous travel on Sunday.

6:30 a.m. update

Now, it's the plow's turn.

Transportation and county officials were on the roads clearing multiple feet of snow from many roads.

Interstate 35 and the Avenue of Saints remained closed. Travel on most other North Iowa highways was still not advised.

The tow ban in Cerro Gordo County was lifted at 6 a.m., but bans in many other North Iowa counties remained in effect.

Weather- and road-related postponements or cancellations included:

• Schools in Mason City, Clear Lake, Newman Catholic, Osage, Forest City, Britt (West Hancock), Northwood-Kensett, Charles City, Central Springs, Algona, Riceville, Rockford (RRMR), and Nashua-Plainfield announced early Sunday that they will be closed Monday. Also, Algona schools will delay their start Tuesday by two hours.

• NIACC will open at noon Monday.

• The Cerro Gordo County Courthouse, Cerro Gordo County Sheriff's Office, and the Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health will postpone opening on Monday until 10 a.m.

• MercyOne Family Medicine offices in Clear Lake, Buffalo Center, Forest City, Greene, Lake Mills, Rockford, and Sheffield will each open at 10 a.m.

• The following MercyOne Mason City offices will open at 10 a.m.: Center for Diabetes, Endocrinology, Kidney and Weight Loss; Dermatology; Forest Park Family Medicine; Internal Medicine; Neurosurgery; Obstetrics and Gynecology; Pediatric & Adolescent Clinic; Regency Family Medicine; Residency Clinic; and Women's Health Center.

• MercyOne Family Medicine in Northwood will open at 11 a.m.

• MercyOne Mason City's Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinic, and Cardiac Rehab will be closed Monday.

• MercyOne Mason City's Urgent Care will open at its regular time Monday.

• Mayo Lake Mills Clinic will open at 10 a.m.

• Hawkeye Harvest Food Bank will be closed Monday.

• The Wright County Courthouse will open at noon Monday.


7 p.m. update

Hunker down for the night, folks.

Iowa Department of Transportation was beginning to pull plows off North Iowa highways Sunday night.

In a tweet from IDOT, "For the safety of our snow fighters, some plows in parts of NW, north central and NE Iowa are being pulled. Conditions may deteriorate quickly making travel even more dangerous.

"When conditions improve, plows will continue operations."

Also, Newman Catholic joined the list of schools closing Monday.

Weather- and road-related postponements or cancellations included:

• Schools in Mason City, Clear Lake, Newman Catholic, Osage, Forest City, Britt (West Hancock), Northwood-Kensett, Charles City, Central Springs, Algona, Riceville, Rockford (RRMR), and Nashua-Plainfield announced early Sunday that they will be closed Monday. Also, Algona schools will delay their start Tuesday by two hours.

• The Cerro Gordo County Courthouse and the Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health will postpone opening on Monday until 10 a.m.

• Mercy One Cardiac Rehab and Hawkeye Harvest Food Bank announced they would be closed Monday.

• The Wright County Courthouse will open at noon Monday.

• Mason City Municipal Airport closed Sunday with plans to reopen Monday morning.

• Mercy One Urgent Care closed Sunday. Officials directed those in need to visit Mercy's emergency room, which was open.

• The Stebens Children's Theatre performance of "Tom Sawyer" was scrapped. It will be rescheduled at a later date.

• The NIACC Performing Arts & Leadership Series postponed Sunday's performance of Popovich Comedy Pet Theater to 6:30 p.m. Monday.

• The Holistic Healing Fair, scheduled for Sunday, was postponed until March 17.


6 p.m. update

Interstate 35 will remain closed until at least Monday morning, according to the Iowa Department of Transportation.

The decision was made "due to continuing blowing and drifting snow."

Officials said roads near I-35 and elsewhere "are impassible due to the dangerous weather conditions. Travel in these conditions can be life threatening. If you do not need to make a trip, stay off the roadways for your safety."

North Iowa's two largest school districts also joined the list of schools that will be closed Monday. Mason City Superintendent Dave Versteeg added the sobering reminder that the decision will add a day to the school calendar for students.


5 p.m. update

Roads in North Iowa remained closed or treacherous, while additional schools planned to cancel classes on Monday.


3:45 p.m. update

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The wind continued to win the battle Sunday, as officials closed the Avenue of the Saints (Highway 18) between Nora Springs and Nashua.

Travelers were also advised to stay off the other highways in and out of Mason City due to blowing snow on roads that were already completely covered.

Interstate 35 remained closed from Ames to Owatonna, Minnesota.

Interstate 35 near Swaledale

The view from a snowplow Saturday night on Interstate 35 near Swaledale.

When will it end? Later than we'd hoped.

The National Weather Service extended the blizzard warning for Mason City and the rest of North Iowa until 9 p.m. Forecasters had done that for Floyd and Mitchell counties earlier Sunday. It had been scheduled to expire at 6 p.m.


2 p.m. update

Law enforcement officials continued to urge North Iowa residents to stay home and avoid traveling.

Conditions, bolstered by 50 mph wind gusts, have worsened during the day.

Interstate 35 was closed, along with some state highways in North Iowa. To the north, a long stretch of Interstate 90 was closed across southern Minnesota.

Cerro Gordo County Sheriff Kevin Pals was blunt with his summation.

"If you do go out make sure you have plenty of fuel, food, water, blankets," he said. "You will be spending the night in your vehicle."

Plows in most counties were pulled off the roads due to limited or no visibility.

Mitchell and Worth counties characterized the move as a "state of emergency," noting roads were not being plowed and travel was not advised.

The local proclamations allow agencies to use emergency funds to work through the storm and utilize emergency agreements with other local and state agencies.

Plow drivers in Worth County were not returning to the roads until 4 a.m. Monday, according to officials.

The blizzard warning for most North Iowa counties was scheduled to end at 6 p.m. The warning for Mitchell and Floyd counties was extended to 9 p.m.

A cold blast was slated to follow the wind Monday, with wind chills about minus-20 below 0. Highs for the rest of the week were also cold; Friday looked the warmest at 20.

Additional snow, though not the depths dumped this weekend, are also possible through the week.


10:30 a.m. update

Additionally, Cerro Gordo County pulled its plows off the roads Sunday morning due to poor visibility. The Sheriff's Office again urged people to avoid traveling.

Mitchell County officials made the same plowing decision and offered the same plea to residents.

Most of the highways in Mitchell County were listed as "Impassable." Travel was not advised on other North Iowa highways – with the exception of Interstate 35, which was closed from Ames to Owatonna.


Original story

The season's strongest storm lived up to its potential on Saturday and Sunday, dropping several inches of snow over a short period and bolstered by high winds.

The result was impassable roads, including Interstate 35. The main thoroughfare was closed from Ames north to to Owatonna, Minnesota.

Local roads were also treacherous. The Mason City Police Department, in a Facebook post, said, "Seriously folks, you can't get from there to here. Please stay home."

The National Weather Service said 11 inches fell in Ventura, 10 in Algona, 6 in Mason City and Clear Lake, 7 in Charles City and 8 in Northwood. Parts of Mitchell and Kossuth counties reported at least 9 inches.

Buffalo Center topped the area with 15 inches.

The Iowa Department of Transportation was doing its best to keep up with the drift. Highways in North Iowa shifted through the night between "Travel not advised" to "Impassable."

In addition to I-35 on Sunday morning, the shutdown list included other highways in Mitchell, Hancock and Franklin counties.

Tow bans were in place in each North Iowa county.

In Cerro Gordo County, Sheriff Kevin Pals was direct on Saturday night.

"Sheriff’s deputies are unable to reach all vehicles currently stuck," he said. "Cerro Gordo County deputies will only be responding to medical emergencies until further notice.

"For your safety, and the safety of all emergency responders, please stay off the roads until the weather clears."

The blizzard warning, which also covered all of North Iowa, was scheduled to end at 6 p.m.

If the weekend's snowfall projections hold (and it appears they did), February 2019 could become the snowiest February in Mason City's recorded history.

After the last snowfall on Wednesday, the total for the month in Mason City was about 20 inches, just 5.5 inches shy of the February record.

Live road conditions: North Iowa DOT webcams

Photos: North Iowans dig out during February blizzard

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