After being closed by a blizzard for more than 24 hours, the northbound lanes of I-35 between Ames and the Minnesota border reopened at 5pm Monday. The southbound lanes reopened at noon Monday. I-35 had been closed all the way north to Owatonna, Minnesota, about 40 miles north of the border.
Even with the roadway open, officials are warning the conditions that forced the closing Sunday will continue to cause traffic headaches.
Iowa State Patrol Sergeant Nathan Ludwig says blowing snow and stranded vehicles contributed to the road closure, and heavy traffic plus icy conditions will remain even once it’s open.
“There’s going to be a lot of vehicles on the road, a lot of semi traffic, heavy truck traffic leaving rest areas, on ramps, off ramps, truck stops. Following distance is a key because the roads are still going to be a little bit icy in spots,” he said.
Ludwig says from midnight Friday through 9:30 am Monday, the state patrol helped more than a thousand motorists and responded to 145 crashes statewide.
The closing also left hundreds of tractor-trailers stranded, filling rest areas along the interstate. Iowa officials then directed trucks to park at Prairie Meadows in Altoona, Jordan Creek Town Center in West Des Moines, or the Hilton Coliseum parking lot on the Iowa State University campus in Ames.
ISU’s senior associate athletics director, Chris Jorgensen, said the university tries to coordinate with local and state officials to allow parking when situations like this arise, though he did say the trucks would have to move by late afternoon.
“We’ll allow it today up until we do have a men’s basketball game on campus tonight,” he said.
I-35 was one of several roads that were impassible or closed in the area affected by the blizzard. As of late this afternoon, parts of U.S. Hwy 69 were closed in Wright, Hancock and Winnebago Counties.