Iowa faces coldest caucus weather conditions in history

Person shoveling

By Rian Nelson, WEBN Reporter

The 2024 Iowa Caucus was the coldest ever recorded. In the capital city of Des Moines, it was the second snowiest 5-day stretch ever recorded. On Jan. 13, the National Weather Service issued a wind chill warning that lasted through the 16th. They warned the area that “travel will remain treacherous,” the -40 to -45 degree windchill could “lead to a life-threatening situation through the night should you become stranded.” 

The weather caused canceled events for candidates and thousands of canceled flights leading up to the caucus. Turnout was historically low this year. Only 108,000 Iowans casted a ballot- around 14% of the state’s registered Republicans.

The weather affected not only voter turnout, but the media as well. Catch Des Moines Creative and Communications director Ben Handfelt said, “At the filing center in 2020, there was 2,400 credentialed media, and this year, we are right at 1,000 credentialed media.” 

Having that first-in-the-nation status brings an economic boost to Iowa. The media, campaign teams, and supporters flood the state in the days and months before caucus night. Working through this massive blizzard in the Catch Des Moines office hasn’t been easy.

“In an ideal world, you guys would be here, and it would be 40 degrees out and unseasonably warm. And you could explore all the cool stuff about Des Moines, and you know you could see that it’s a cool, progressive city in the Midwest. So, you know, the weather kind of puts a damper on things, literally and figuratively,” Handfelt said.

For this election cycle, the Democrats voted to remove Iowa from the early lineup of the presidential primary and caucus. ” Handfelt said of this election on both sides, “the result kind of seems like a foregone conclusion this time, so I don’t think you have the same kind of breathless coverage.”

Despite talk of forgone conclusions and exceptionally rough weather, thousands of hearty Iowans made their voices heard last Monday.