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Iowa City snow storm causes 31 morning crashes

BY MATT STARNS | DECEMBER 07, 2011 7:20 AM

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Tuesday's light snowfall was enough to cause 31 reported car crashes on the morning commute in Iowa City.

Yet Iowa City police Sgt. Denise Brotherton said such an influx of accidents is common with the first snow of the winter.

 

"The biggest thing [to remember] is to slow down," she said.

The majority of Tuesday's snow melted off the city's roads during the day, allowing for easier driving in the evening hours. But it still reminded many Iowa City residents of the campuswide shutdown following the heavy snowfall in February, when the University of Iowa campus was blanketed with more than a foot of snow.

Carol Sweeting, the information coordinator for Iowa City Public Works, said it's important to plan in advance for snow emergencies. She said the Feb. 2 blizzard was the first time in Iowa City history that the city declared an extended snow emergency.

"It was just overwhelming for everyone," she said, "So we had to extend the snow emergency."

Sweeting said snow emergencies — which normally last 48 hours — are declared as early as possible, and the February storm was so severe it required an extended snow emergency.

She also said it's important for Iowa City residents to remember snow-emergency protocols.

The Public Works Department published a release explaining the importance of following the snow-emergency parking regulations so the city is able to clear snow from the streets as quickly as possible.

When Public Works declares a snow emergency, motorists are allowed at least four hours in order to move their vehicles off plow routes — though Sweeting said the department tries to announce the snow emergencies the day before they go into effect.

If residents do not move their cars, they risk getting a $50 ticket as well as paying a towing fee. The grand total for not moving one's vehicle during a snow emergency can climb past $200, Public Works officials said.

Sweeting said the city does provide some parking for those whose residential on-street parking is prohibited during the snow emergency. Free overnight parking is available in five downtown parking ramps and parking lots of city parks during the snow emergency's 48-hour duration.

It's also important, Brotherton said, that motorists have supplies in their vehicle in case they get stranded and cannot immediately find help during a snow emergency.

"If you get stuck and you may have to wait for help to come, you'll need to be able to make yourself warm," she said. "The majority of people have cell phones, so it's very important to keep that charged and to have a charger in the car. That's your first line of help."

UI students who rely on the Cambus system for transportation need not worry, said UI Parking and Transportation Director David Ricketts.

"We almost never completely shut down and go home," he said. "Cambus really tries to keep running because people are so dependent on it — if you stop running, people are stranded."

Ricketts said that Cambus's top priority is safety.

"We encourage safety over scheduling," he said, and the buses will slow if weather worsens but will continue to run their routes. "There are exceptions, but for the most part it's pretty much in [Cambus] culture to keep functioning as best we can."


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