Icy rain causes crashes, clo­sures in south­ern Plains

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - WEATHER - By Jim Salter

ST. LOUIS >> A thick glaze of ice cov­ered roads from Ok­la­homa to south­ern Illi­nois on Fri­day amid a win­ter storm that caused nu­mer­ous wrecks, forced school can­cel­la­tions, grounded flights and prompted dire warn­ings for peo­ple to stay home.

Win­ter storms are typ­i­cally as­so­ci­ated with heavy snow­fall, but the one ham­mer­ing the south­ern 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 ice­cov­ered.

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 sev­eral col­lege cam­puses. St. Louis closed all city op­er­a­tions as it braced for its worst ice storm in at least a decade. Sev­eral Mis­souri pris­ons halted vis­it­ing hours.

The fore­cast for prompted the NFL to move Sun­day’s AFC di­vi­sional play­off game be­tween the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers and Kansas Chiefs to Sun­day evening to al­low more time to treat roads and park­ing lots at Ar­row­head Sta­dium. The game was sched­uled to kick off a noon but will now start at 7:20 p.m.

The weather at­mos­phere was so tur­bu­lent that thun­der rum­bled as freez­ing rain fell in Jo­plin, Mis­souri.

Sev­eral util­ity com­pa­nies brought in all avail­able 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. The Kansas Na­tional Guard mo­bi­lized about 200 sol­diers to help first re­spon­ders and stranded mo­torists through­out the week­end.

Fore­cast­ers is­sued ice storm warn­ings from the Ok­la­homa and Texas pan­han­dles into south­ern Illi­nois, with up to 1 inch of ice ex­pected in some lo­ca­tions. Pre­cip­i­ta­tion is fore­cast to fall in waves Fri­day, Satur­day and Sun­day.

Res­i­dents were tak­ing the warn­ings se­ri­ously. Gro­cery stores were sell­ing out of bread, milk and other ne­ces­si­ties, and hard­ware stores were run­ning out of flash­lights, bat­ter­ies and al­ter­na­tive en­ergy sources.

“They’re grab­bing gen­er­a­tors, and I’m sold out,” said Ray­mond Bopp, as­sis­tant man­ager of the Wood­ward Ace Hard­ware store in Wood­ward, Ok­la­homa, about 140 miles north­west of Ok­la­homa City.

Sev­eral states ac­ti­vated emer­gency man­age­ment pro­ce­dures. In Ok­la­homa, Gov. Mary Fallin de­clared a dis­as­ter emer­gency. The state set up gen­er­a­tors and sup­plies at tem­po­rary shel­ters in the north­ern part of the state. Mis­souri Gov. Eric Gre­it­ens and top cab­i­net of­fi­cials manned an emer­gency op­er­a­tions cen­ter. Kansas of­fi­cials were still wait­ing for the worst of it, with freez­ing rain in much of the state ex­pected to ar­rive Satur­day.

Mis­souri Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion crews were work­ing 12-hour shifts to treat roads and high­ways, though as some of the freez­ing rain melted, it washed the chem­i­cals away, said Linda Wil­son Horn, a spokes­woman for MoDOT.

“It’ll be a long, con­stant bat­tle for our crews,” Horn said.


A pedes­trian shields her­self from freez­ing rain Fri­day in down­town Bartlesville, Ok­la­homa.

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