DES MOINES - There's a reason this winter feels as if it's dragging from one severe arctic chill to another, the state's climatologist said Monday. Weather records show that for weeks now it really has been colder than normal in Iowa.
Temperatures in Iowa between Oct. 1 and Jan. 23 represent the ninth coldest for that period in the past 121 years, state climatologist Harry Hillaker said. The average statewide temperature was 30.1 degrees over the 115 days, compared with the normal 34.2 degrees.
"So over the longer term, it's been pretty cold. Number nine out of 121 years is something that doesn't come along very often," he said. The winter hasn't been among the snowiest, however.
Iowa state patrol officers block Sundown Road going south out of Peosta, Iowa, Monday due to heavy drifting and blowing snow. The deep freeze has returned, bringing with it wind chills ranging from the negative teens to 40s, cancelations of schools and trains, and signs of resignation from parents forced to bring kids to work and residents who are tired of bundling up.
"When I looked at the top 24 coldest starts to winter, only three had below normal snowfall up to that mid-winter point," he said. "And this is one of them."
The lack of snow has left the ground without the natural insulation it provides, leading to deeper than normal ground frost that can expose water lines to freezing temperatures.
Officials in Waterloo have reported incidents of lines freezing. Iowa City has warned residents that the extreme cold has sparked numerous reports of frozen and broken water pipes.
Hillaker said Iowans should be prepared to endure more cold. Historical records show about two-thirds of the winters that started out colder than normal finished colder than normal.