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Extreme drought south of Iowa

While the talk recently has been snow and cold, there have been limited updates on the wildfires south of us. Within the areas of critical fire danger lies an intensifying drought. Droughts don’t usually get as much attention as other weather because they’re not exciting. They don’t blow things down, and they take weeks or months to fully develop. But they’re something meteorologists watch for, and when a drought forms in this part of the country, it’s important to take note. A northeast expansion of drought conditions could indeed occur over the next few months. Side note: This is the driest April on record so far at the Eastern Iowa Airport.

Beyond the Weather: Exploring the Solar System

With more clear skies and milder conditions in the forecast, it will be easier to get outside. If you have a chance through the weekend, you can look to the heavens above for some great views beyond the weather. The western sky provides ample targets to find. The moon makes an easy marker to start from. Find our lunar neighbor in a waxing crescent phase. To the lower right of the moon near the western horizon is the planet Venus. At the same time in the western sky, the winter circle of stars surrounds the moon. Look for Pollux, Castor, Capella, Aldebaran, Rigel, Sirius and Procyon. Not only are we exploring the solar system from Earth, we are looking for planets outside our solar system. Earlier this week, NASA’s TESS mission was launched. TESS stands for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. Its two year mission is to explore strange new worlds on planets orbiting stars other than our sun. You can see the launch of TESS here. Happy stargazing!

April 18, 2018 snowfall totals

Heavy snow fell in northern Iowa on Wednesday, April 18. South of Highway 20, amounts were substantially lower thanks to dry air cutting off most of the snow and leaving behind drizzle or freezing drizzle. When a number and direction go with a city name, that's how far away the report was from the city center. For example, "2 NNE Cedar Rapids" is two miles north-northeast of downtown Cedar Rapids. These are the reports that came in between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Lime Springs (Howard Co.): 12.5” 1 ESE Dorchester (Allamakee Co.): 10.0” Cresco (Howard Co.): 9.5” Hesper (Winneshiek Co.): 9.0” 3 ESE Bluffton (Winneshiek Co.): 8.8” Bluffton (Winneshiek Co.): 8.0” Calmar (Winneshiek Co.): 6.8” 1 N Prairie du Chien (Crawford Co., WI): 6.5” New Hampton (Chickasaw Co.): 6.2” Decorah (Winneshiek Co.): 6.0” Harpers Ferry (Allamakee Co.): 6.0” 6 NE Postville (Allamakee Co.): 5.5” Nashua (Chickasaw Co.): 5.5” Clarksville (Butler Co.): 5.0” West Union (Fayette Co.): 4.8” 2 NNW Fayette (Fayette Co.): 4.8” Plainfield (Bremer Co.): 4.5” Jesup (Buchanan Co.): 3.0” 1 NW Center Grove (Dubuque Co.): 2.5” Cedar Falls (Black Hawk Co.): 2.3” Dubuque Regional Airport (Dubuque Co.): 2.0” 2 ENE Hazleton (Buchanan Co.): 2.0” 1 NE Waterloo (Black Hawk Co.): 1.9” Lancaster (Grant Co.): 1.8” 5 N Dysart (Benton Co.): 1.5”

Epic snow in northern Iowa over the past month

Over the past 30 days, the snow has really piled up over northern Iowa. Thanks to three major snowstorms in that area, totals of two to three feet are been common! There's probably another six inches or more heading that way on Wednesday. That will lead to isolated totals pushing 50 inches over the past 30 days! To put this in perspective, the seasonal normal in Cedar Rapids is 27 inches. Imagine nearly double the seasonal snowfall in a span of fewer than 30 days – after winter was over, no less. Hopefully, everyone enjoyed today's sunshine!

Risk of accumulating snow shifts south

Yet another round of snow is coming to eastern Iowa, and it’ll come with the potential for sleet and freezing rain. WHAT AND WHEN A wintry mix of rain, sleet, freezing rain, and snow will develop very late Tuesday night. The wintry mix will gradually change to snow from northwest to southeast, and nearly all of eastern Iowa should be changed over by the noon hour. Snow will continue in the afternoon, tapering off in the evening. Wind will be from the northeast at 10 to 20 mph throughout the day, sometimes gusting to 30 mph. Thunder will be possible. Whatever precipitation is falling is going to come down heavily when there is thunder. The precipitation will be heaviest in eastern Iowa between about 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. WHERE This system will affect all of eastern Iowa, although the impacts will be less near and south of Interstate 80, and greater north of Highway 20. South of Interstate 80, precipitation should begin as rain and switch to snow with a much lower chance of notable ice in between. From Interstate 80 to about Highway 20, there will probably be a period of sleet and freezing rain before a changeover to all snow. Farther north, most of this event will be spent as snow. HOW MUCH In general, four to six inches of snow is expected north of Highway 20. Two to four inches should occur between Highway 20 and Highway 30, with less than two inches south of Highway 30. This is approximate and may shift depending on when the switch to snow occurs. Locally higher snowfall totals may happen with this storm, especially where the snow comes down more heavily for a longer time. Again, precipitation will be heaviest where thunder occurs. A coating of ice is possible where sleet or freezing rain occur. BOTTOM LINE The beginning of the morning commute may not have significant issues, but the wintry mix will be more widespread by the end of it. The lunch hour will have slower travel, and light snow should still be falling during the evening commute. Plus there, will be the leftover effects from the snow that fell earlier in the day. Even though the snow may melt on the roads at first, when it comes down heavily enough, it’ll begin to stick. There may be places in which there ice underneath the snow, creating unexpectedly slippery conditions. Even though it’s mid-April, snow and ice don’t magically become less slippery because of the calendar. Use as much caution when there’s ice or snow on the road or sidewalk on Wednesday as you would in the middle of winter. Continue getting updates through KCRG-TV9, here at kcrg.com, and on the First Alert Weather app. If you have an Apple device, you can download it here. If you have an Android device, you can download it here.