Another winter storm is affecting Plymouth County and its surroundings through Saturday. For Plymouth, Woodbury, Sioux, Lincoln and Union counties, There’s a Winter Weather Advisory in effect until 6 p.m. Friday, and a Wind Chill Warning in effect until noon Saturday. For counties east of Plymouth County, including O’Brien, Cherokee and Ida, there is also a Blizzard Warning in effect from noon to 6 p.m. Friday. Blowing snow, high winds, and dangerously low wind chills will be common in the area through Saturday. Wind chills around the area this morning were down to -46 four miles north of Sioux City, and -45 near Le Mars and Remsen.
BLAME LA NINA
The cold weather blast is part of the ongoing La Nina weather pattern that’s been impacting Iowa and the rest of the Midwest. State Climatologist Justin Glisan says the system has been on an unusual run, as this is the third consecutive winter of La Nina — what’s called a triple stack — for only the second time since the 1950s. Glisan says the weather pattern keeps the cold air flowing over Iowa and it’s expected to fade in the spring in a gradual transition. The impacts of La Nina will likely continue, he says, across the northern hemisphere through December, January and February.
Many Iowans try to combat the bone-chilling cold of winter with space heaters, but they can also bring an increased risk of house fires. Le Mars Fire and Rescue Chief Dave Schipper says space heaters can provide much-needed warmth to an icy room, however, they can also be very dangerous if they’re misused.
The more modern space heaters have been manufactured with better safety features, yet they’re not foolproof, especially if you set a load of laundry down next to one.
A house fire in Mason City last month that killed four brothers, ranging in age from three to 12, is blamed on an overloaded power strip. Schipper says portable heaters can be a real hazard if they’re left unattended.
The chief strongly recommends smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in all homes.
GASOLINE PRICES FALL
Gas prices continue to fall in Iowa, with the price for regular unleaded well below three dollars in most Iowa cities. According to Triple A, the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline was two-eighty one in Plymouth County, two-ninety two in Woodbury County, and 3 dollars in Sioux County. The statewide average was two-86 ($2.86) on Wednesday. That’s a nickle below the average price in the middle of last week and 17 cents lower than it was a year ago. Diesel prices are also declining in Iowa, down to an average of four-dollars-and-33 cents a gallon ($4.33). While that’s 16 cents lower than last Wednesday, it is still 23 percent higher than a year ago. The extremes in Iowa, by county, are right next door to each other. Henry County’s average price was – 2.66 – in Washington County it was 3.19.
IOWA K-12 CHANGES
Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley says he’s created a new committee to consider an array of changes to Iowa’s K-through-12 education system.
Grassley says the panel will obviously focus on the much-discussed “school choice” initiative — giving money to parents who send their kids to private schools.
For example, a year ago the House voted to increase state incentives for small school districts that share superintendents or other staff. Grassley expects other ideas to be included in the plan, like more spending flexibility for public schools and new pathways for teacher licensure.
The new House Education Reform Committee will have five members. Three will be Republicans and that includes Grassley, who’ll be chairman. House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst will be one of the two Democrats on the panel.
The 2023 Iowa legislative session starts in less than three weeks.