Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

January 31, 2013

Winter weather not through

Steve Woodhouse
Journal-Express

Knoxville — A tow ban remains in effect for Marion County, per Sheriff Jason Sandholdt. The continuing cold weather has made it challenging for the Marion County Secondary Road Department to effectively clear roads as well. 

Despite the several inches of snowfall, with ice packed beneath it, Marion County Emergency Management Coordinator Jeff Anderson said the public did a great job of heeding the many warnings that came before the snow. There were still accidents, but neither Anderson or Sandholdt report any fatalities or accidents with injuries. 

Anderson and Sandholdt were busy Wednesday with the storm. They assisted in the transportation of dialysis patients in the county to Pella Regional Health Center. Sandholdt said he did not realize that these patients required the treatment three times each week. He is glad this is one area his office, and Emergency Management, could help local residents. 

This service has been provided by the County for years. Transportation for this essential medical service is provided by the County when HIRTA shuts down. Anderson, who has been with Emergency Mangement for nearly five years, said there were two winters in which there was not a storm to this magnitude that shut down HIRTA. He is happy to help those in need. 

Sandholdt joked that this was one of the few times people were glad to ride in a sheriff's vehicle. He is still learning about the many services his office provides to the County and is glad he is able to provide the help. 

With the roads in such poor condition, the sheriff instituted a tow ban. Reports indicate that Highway 163 has some of the worst road conditions in the state. Sandholdt intends to keep the tow ban in place until such time it is safe for tow truck operators to come assist those in need. He hopes to be able to lift the ban Friday morning (Feb. 1). Be sure to check www.journalexpress.net and our Facebook page for the announcement. 

For the Secondary Road Department, yesterday's winter weather event is still going. County Engineer Roger Schletzbaum said his crews have been over all of the roads in the county at least once. Wind is blowing much of the snow back on the roads, especially on gravel. Paved roads are faring better. 

There is a lawy of ice which has formed on the roads, under the snow. With today's cold temperatures, the crews are struggling the clear the roads entirely. 

Crews have been running since 4 a.m. They intend to resume at 4 a.m. Friday as well. Drivers are advised that if they must travel, use caution. 

"I think the operative word here is to drive for the conditions you encounter," Schletzbaum said. Slow down, plan your routes and be careful, he said. 

In town, Knoxville Street Superintendent Dennis Webb said this has been a difficult snow for his department. City crews also started at 4 a.m. Wednesday morning, but the snow continued to fall for hours after that. 

"Eight inches of snow is a lot for us," Webb said. There are several piles of snow around town, which will be dumped near Auld Park. The road to the City's brush dump, where snow is usually taken, will not allow access. Webb said the vehicles are in good condition and he hopes to have everything cleaned up within a week. 

City crews have used approximately 40 tons of salt and sand for this snow and 100 tons for the year. Marion County used 60 tons of sand and a similar amount of salt thus far.