WEST DES MOINES – Cars across Iowa are feeling the effects of this winter blast – and that is not good news for drivers.
A record low of -19 degrees hit the metro Monday morning. The falling temperatures are causing a drop in tire pressure for cars in central Iowa. Driver turn to air pumps found at local gas stations for help, but not all of them worked Monday.
“I had to scrounge around until I found a station that had an air hose that was working,” said West Des Moines resident Ron Coppi.
Coppi had a busy start to his New Year, spending most of Monday braving the cold, looking for a functioning air pump to avoid getting a flat tire.
“The right front was low and I finally got it fixed up after three stops and now the left rear is showing low,” Coppi said. “I suppose this could go on all day, but you just don’t want a lot of inconveniences when it’s this cold out.”
Drivers say several air pumps in the metro were not operational Monday. Gas station employees Local 5 spoke to explained there is little they can do, especially because the hoses are kept outside. Other drivers who lucked out at an air pump on their first try say they are not taking any chances.
“We started smelling burning rubber, so thought it might be a good idea to come out to the station and check to see if the tire was in fact going flat,” said Des Moines resident Jarad Bernstein.
If your car gets a flat fire on the highway, or if it just breaks down in these frigid temperatures, there is no need to worry. Iowa Department of Transportation Director Mark Lowe says the DOT’s Highway Helper program is set up to assist anyone in need.
“We can provide fuel, we can again provide air for the tires,” Lowe said.
All you have to do is call 9-1-1 and a dispatcher will send a DOT truck your way. But Lowe says it might not even have to come to that.
“They’re out on patrol actively looking for stranded motorists, and many many times, we actually see them before anybody even calls for help, so even if you can’t get to us, we’re out looking for you,” Lowe said.
And as drivers continue to navigate this winter blast, they are sharing a common New Year’s resolution.
“Be careful and take care of yourself out here, these are very hazardous conditions,” Coppi said.
When filling up at air pump stations, it is also important to remember not to put too much air in your tires, because it can make them lose traction.
The Iowa DOT says they also use traffic cameras to see if they need to dispatch Highway Helper vehicles to assist stranded drivers. The program currently has two trucks in each of the following metro areas: Des Moines, Council Bluffs, Iowa City/Cedar Rapids. The DOT says they will be expanding their hours (currently 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.) as they expand the program in the next year.