Living in snow country (Iowa City, Dubuque: houses, buying, schools)
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What do I need to know about living in Iowa winters? I am from California and may be retiring in Iowa and don't know the first thing about living in cold weather. Never had a reason to learn. Are there web sites available that give advice on weatherizing your home and auto, etc. I am sure this sounds stupid but I never thought I'd leave sunny old California.
In exchange for good advice I can tell the responder how to live in 115 degree summer weather during a drought while driving and dodging maniacs on the freeway.
It's not so bad, really. Iowa winters make you feel somehow invincible just for surviving them... what a rush, huh. OK, anyway, driving is the biggest concern, I think... but you just learn how to drive on ice (slow) and when and when not to brave the weather. When you hear of a winter storm coming, you join the masses who run to the local grocery store for bread and milk, and then huddle down and watch the snow fall. A nice snowblower is a great investment - but remember to blow out your neighbor's driveways as well, it's just the friendly, expected thing to do in my hometown anyway!
As for weatherizing your home and auto - I'm not a good expert on that. Never really thought about it. I guess make sure you have antifreeze, an ice scraper, and a survival kit w/ blankets, cell, etc in your vehicle. It helps to throw a couple bags of softener salt in your trunk for traction on the ice too. You can get snow tires put on your vehicle too, which help a lot.
I gotta go - but maybe this helps a little??
I agree, the main thing is the car issue. Driving on ice/snow, and then preparing for the worst (keep a blanket in the car, scrapers, some extra windshield fluid, maybe some crackers or water if you'll be driving distances...)
If you are buying...a good snowblower, shovels, de-icer, sand, salt...whatever you choose for your home.
Don't people usually do it the other way around....we leave Iowa for warmer weather??
Snow is rough to drive around in, but it isn't like it snows for MONTHS on end. This past winter it really only snowed a few times, and I remember 2 years ago we didn't even get a flake of snow until late January.
The only time snow really creates major issues is while it's falling and directly after. Luckly you will only have to deal with these periods a few times a winter - it normally doesn't snow on a weekly basis or anything like that. An inch or two can fall every week or so, but no one really even acknowledges the event.
I use to LOVE the foot high snows we'd get hit with once or twice a year back in the 80's (hey, it's kinda exciting for a day or two), but those really haven't happened the past few years. Very rarely is there more than 12 inches or so of snow on the ground at any given time. Lots of people think the midwest is like northern Minn. or Buffalo NY where a few FEET of snow can fall at once. It's possible in Iowa and the lower midwest, but very rare. I lived in Iowa City for 22 years, and the most snow I ever remember getting at one time was 12-14 inches of snow.
As for the cold - December can see temps get really cold, but then normally a week or so of 50's will happen.
January and February are the really bad months, but this year and last year as well we saw temps in the 50's multiple times.
Once March and April hit, it frequently will creep up to the low 70's every few weeks. That's the key, the cold weather is MUCH easier to deal with if you know in a week it can get up to 60-70 if even for a few days. Those few months right at the beginning of the year are when you will have weeks on end of below freezing weather, with only a few breaks up into the 40's.
My wife likes the idea of retiring near her son who lives near Omaha on the Iowa side. We visited him a month ago and were inpressed with the beauty of that area. In California the land in "brown" most of the year. I would like to live where it is green most of the year. The cost of houses is very attractive as we could afford more for less. Everything in the west is high and I doubt that prices will go down much. I grew up in the country in a small town in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas (Mother Lode area) and have always yearned to retire in a rural area. I have never (as an adult) heated a house with propane so I don't have any idea what the heating, and cooling expense for that matter, would be like in Iowa. I would not want to buy a nice home and then not be able to heat/cool it. Those aren't big issues here. Finding that it rains in the summer was a little strange to me. For us rain is in the winter and sun/dry in the summer. We are looking at retirement spots in other states (WA & OR) too. Iowa just felt like home while I was there. Perhaps one of the winters or muggy summers would snap me out of it I'm just a small town guy from Central California. Not looking for excitement.
The past few years (with a few exceptions), Iowa really hasn't gotten very cold or had very much snow. We did have a terrific ice and snowstorm in March of this year, but that's almost the worst I've ever seen. I concur with others that driving on ice and snow will probably be one of the biggest hazards, but the problem is not people going too fast -- it's people going too slowly. Especially in the country, a minimum speed has to be maintained to simply make it up hills.
I'm not sure what others do, but I've never done anything special to my car or house when winter arrives, except keeps the windows and doors shut tightly!
I did not know if winter required special oils in the car or radiator heaters. Some cold areas do. Our son did not disconnect a garden hose from the water valve and somehow during the winter this caused the valve to crack and water to leak into his basement. I suppose I will need some kind of snow blower as I am getting to hold to shovel I certainly will need warmer winter clothes.
People in Iowa, including me, love the winter weather. It lasts from Thanksgiving through Easter, half of the year. I'd prepare around Veterans Day with a snowblower, shovels, driveway salt, and maybe even chains for your tires. Dont think that it is cold all year here, though. It has been pretty hot (Iowa standards) lately, with about 90 degrees for the past week or so here in Dubuque. You can still get a tan in Iowa. .
On the other hand, you probably didnt get many "severe thunderstorms" on the west coast. I dont hear of tornados over there often... We've had two tornados in Dubuque County this year. We might get a hail storm once every year or two, and about two or three strong wind thunderstorms per year.
Sometimes even "thundersnow," in February this year we'd had a dump of snow here and schools were closed for three days straight, whcih usually does not happen.
-Oh, and if you dont get a garage, get an ice/frost scraper for your windshield and be prepared to use it from late September into early May.
Ah yes, the all-powerful thundersnow, which equaled a snow day. the first 17 years of my life were growing up in Mount Carroll IL, and if the system is organized enough that the weather channel shows snow all the way from Denver to Chicago, You'd better bet your life that you're in for 12 inches+ out of that 1 snowstorm. Otherwise, the worst I've ever seen was 1992/1993 when we had to have had about 2 feet of snow on the ground at 1 time with it still falling (which ultimately led to the Flood of 1993)
Bad things like Ice Storms (here in the ozarks, we got a particularly nasty one in January) only come scarcely.
Shovel, Salt, and in your case of retirement, a snow blower will come in handy. Don't forget that the snow blower requires that small engine fuel additive.
Thunderstorms are awesome in iowa. Just look at last month's outbreak around eastern iowa/Quad Cities. Especially for TORNADO CHASING!!!! Although the most powerful tornado i'd ever experienced while living there was an F2 which hit Mount Carroll and all it managed to do was knock off 1 piece of already loose siding (which was snapped back into place the next day) The houses are built to withstand time, weather, and probably even a bomb. (like the older houses made of oak timbers and Masonry) If you're ever in Clinton and the alarms go off, They aren't kidding...The last time I heard the alarms go off (june 04), they experienced some heavy straight line winds and even had police report a tornado on the ground off the Northwest side of Clinton.
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