Alexander drift

  A long-predicted winter storm hit northern Iowa and southern Minnesota Dec. 21-23. The snow began to fall on Wednesday, blew around on Thursday, and really blew around on Friday. You could see the sun at times on Friday, but winds of 30 to 40 miles per hour made it very difficult to travel, even in town. The temperature dropped to 15 below zero with windchills of 40 to 50 below.

  Businesses in Belmond closed early on Thursday, reopened Friday morning, but locked up early again Friday afternoon as the blizzard really got going.

  Many roads were closed Friday, including Highway 69 north of Belmond, Interstate 35 between Ames and Clear Lake, and Interstate 90 across southern Minnesota. Most highways were open again by noon on Saturday. People moving snow found that it was packed very hard by the wind.

  It was difficult to determine the actual amount of snow that fell because of the strong wind. Some places had drifts eight feet high, while other places were blown mostly clear.

  Travelers became stranded in many spots on Friday. In Belmond, motorists with pets were housed at the fire station, while those without pets were put up at the hospital. Fire Chief Brad Dougherty said 15 to 20 people spent the night on air mattresses and blankets brought to the fire station by members of the department. He said the hospital hosted about ten visitors.

  In Alexander (photo of Main Street above), about 80 stranded motorists found their way from closed I-35 and were put up at the Reformed Church, fire station and public library Friday night. The town's maintenance man, Christian Larsen, used his snowplow to go north and south of town so people could get to shelter.

  In Meservey, about three dozen people stayed overnight in the fire station.

  Officials were not aware of anyone stranded in Rowan.

  Mother Nature then dropped another four inches of snow in two batches Sunday afternoon and evening, but winds were light.