Freezing rain causes accidents, closures in southern Plains
ST. LOUIS — A thick glaze of ice covered roads from Oklahoma to souther n Illinois on Friday amid a winter stor m that caused numerous wrecks, forced school cancellations, grounded flights and prompted dire war nings for people to stay home.
Winter stor ms are typically associated with heavy snowfall, but the one hammering the souther n Plains and Midwest dumped freezing rain, a condition even harder for road crews to treat. A slick roadway was suspected in a fatal wreck in Missouri, where long stretches of Interstate 44 and Interstate 55 were ice-covered.
More freezing precipitation was expected in parts of the nation’s central corridor throughout most of the holiday weekend.
“There’s no mystery to driving on ice,” Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Al Nothum said. “It’s impossible to do. You have to slow your speed down.”
Hundreds of schools were closed, including sev- eral college campuses. St. Louis closed all city operations as it braced for its worst ice stor m in at least a decade. Several Missouri prisons halted visiting hours.
The weather atmosphere was so turbulent that thunder rumbled as freezing rain fell in Joplin, Missouri.
Several utility companies brought in all avail- able crews who were working extended shifts in anticipation of heavy ice snapping trees and power lines. Scattered outages were reported, including about 2,500 in Springfield, Missouri.
Forecasters issued ice storm warnings from the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles into souther n Illinois, with up to 1 inch of ice expected in some locations. Precipitation is forecast to fall in waves today and Sunday.
Residents were taking the war nings seriously. Grocery stores were selling out of bread, milk and other necessities, and hardware stores were running out of flashlights, batteries and alter native energy sources.