On this Date in Iowa Weather History: 1959 Girl’s State Basketball Winter Storm

On March 14-16, 1959, a major winter storm struck Iowa as a potent low pressure center moved east northeast out of Kansas into central Illinois resulting in 6 deaths and 1 injury. Precipitation began in southern Iowa as rain on the morning of the 14th then started to switch to a heavy wet snow by afternoon. The heaviest snowfall occurred overnight on the 14th-15th, with 4 inches or more falling in a wide swath from southwest to northeast across the state and some areas within that band receiving 8 to 10 inches. The highest reported storm total snowfall accumulations included 12.5 inches at New Hampton, 12.0 inches at Cresco, and 10.0 inches at Clarion, Fayette, and Fort Dodge. Winds gusting to as high as 60 mph caused severe blowing and drifting of the snow, commonly producing drifts up to 10 feet deep. There were even reports in northeastern Iowa with drifts as deep as 15 feet! Across about the southern half of the state, the heavy snow remained very wet and froze to all surfaces. As a result, thousands of trees, utility poles and lines were snapped or heavily damaged. Even after the heavy snow ended on the 15th, frozen surfaces and high winds continued to make travel impossible across most of the state. In fact, Des Moines and Dubuque authorities prohibited any travel to or from their cities. Also in Des Moines, there were 5,000 basketball fans attending the girls state tournament that spent the night in the Veterans Memorial Stadium building.