A formidable blizzard, characterized by plunging temperatures, whipping winds, and substantial snowfall, has severely disrupted the culmination of caucus campaigning in the US state of Iowa.
On Friday, Republican presidential hopefuls faced significant challenges as the National Weather Service (NWS) issued warnings of “fairly intense blizzard conditions” across the Midwestern state. Gusts of 50 to 55 miles per hour, accompanied by blowing snow, threatened to reduce visibility to a quarter of a mile.
The extreme weather forced White House contenders Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley to cancel critical events merely days before the Iowa caucus, marking the inaugural vote of the 2024 White House race. DeSantis, emphasizing safety, stated, “We want everyone to be safe” amidst the howling winds and a plummeting temperature of 7 degrees Fahrenheit (-14 Celsius) in Des Moines, the state capital.
The aftermath of the blizzard is anticipated to be an “Arctic outbreak” of “bitter cold,” with wind chills as low as -45 degrees Fahrenheit (-43 Celsius) in Iowa and the surrounding region over the weekend. The NWS further predicted an additional two or more inches of snow, creating hazardous whiteout conditions and resulting in numerous overturned vehicles in Des Moines.
The treacherous weather conditions prompted the Iowa State Patrol to conduct 436 “motorist assists” by 10:00 pm on Friday, with continued warnings of dangerous driving conditions. Despite these challenges, concerns over caucus turnout arose as candidates Haley and DeSantis aimed to surpass former President Donald Trump in the polls.
Governor Kim Reynolds reassured, “We’re going to get people to the polls on caucus night” despite the weather challenges. Both candidates, Haley and DeSantis, adapted their campaign strategies, with Haley moving Friday’s events online and DeSantis expressing determination to face the elements for every vote.
In a parallel development, flight disruptions affected political observers and reporters heading to Iowa, with over 2,000 flights canceled nationwide. Trump, leading in polls, assured his supporters that he would make it to Iowa before the vote, emphasizing the significance of a resounding win in the state for securing the Republican nomination.
The broader impact of the blizzard extended to the western United States, where snow and freezing conditions disrupted key football games and added to the challenges following earlier severe cold weather incidents across the nation.