IOWA — The Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) says travel is not advised on roadways in more than two-thirds of the state on Sunday.
“It’s more than a suggestion. It’s more than a recommendation. It’s a pretty firm statement,” Iowa State Patrol Sgt. Nathan Ludwig said. “So we want people to stay home.”
But still, some tried to take to the roads, leaving hundreds stranded.
“There were people in North Central Iowa who were stranded for hours because we couldn’t get to them. The plows were stuck, tow trucks got stuck,” Ludwig said.
Even state troopers got stuck trying to go out and rescue those out in their cars. The Iowa State Patrol says there were over 30 cars in the ditch near the 158th Avenue overpass on Interstate 35 near Huxley.
“I don’t want to be one of those,” Judy Paczko said.
That’s why Judy and her husband, Wally Paczko, were one of the numerous trucks and cars pulled off at the I-35 northbound rest stop in Cambridge.
“Boy, when we got up here, just past the last exit, it really picked up. It was really something,” Judy Packzo said.
Trying to get their daughter back to college at Iowa State, the couple says they are stuck with a tough decision to stay put, travel back south, or try to get to Ames.
“Well, if you had to be stuck at a rest stop, it wouldn’t be the worst place,” Wally Paczko said. “You got water, junk food, and bathrooms, but now it’s not looking too good.”
Another couple trying to get from Oklahoma City to St. Cloud, Minnesota in time for a new job orientation Monday morning say they have been stuck at the rest stop since 11:30 a.m. Sunday.
“We were on the one ramp and we started fishtailing and then we got it under control and then the wind almost rolled us over to two other cars that were on the side of the road,” Jennifer Whipple said. “Everywhere we were driving there were cars everywhere.”
With I-35 closed both directions north of Ames all the way past the Minnesota border, they say they have no choice but to try and find a hotel.
“It’s just not worth risking it right this minute,” Shawn Beavers said.
Side roads along the interstate are not available as well. Most are completely impassable with snow drifts as high as car side windows.
Iowan Bruce Barrows is also stranded in Albert Lea. He is spending his second night in a hotel trying to get back to Des Moines from Duluth, Minnesota.
“Right away it picked up and really it wasn’t about how much snow we had here in southern Minnesota, but it was the wind,” Barrows said. “I-35 quickly became one lane in both directions, so we decided we didn’t want to drive the last 150 miles going 20 mph and [risk] the chance of going into the ditch.”
Ludwig says it is days like this where the winter survival kit they have been preaching about since November really became important.
Remember to always look at your 511 app or go to 511ia.org for road conditions before travelling.