Snowstorm Closes St. Louis-Area Schools, Businesses; 4 Dead On Missouri Highways | St. Louis Public Radio

Snowstorm Closes St. Louis-Area Schools, Businesses; 4 Dead On Missouri Highways

Dec 15, 2019

Updated at 4 p.m., Dec. 16 —

The winter storm that moved into Missouri on Sunday is keeping the state’s highway patrol and transportation department busy. 

As of Monday morning, Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers had responded to more than 2,000 calls. Four people have died in highway wrecks because of the weather, and another 66 were injured. By 2 p.m., there had been nearly 100 accidents reported on the highways in the St. Louis area.

A winter storm warning remains in effect until midnight. Seven inches of snow could fall before then.

“We’re fully staffed, and we’re out trying to clear the roadways, but these trucks often take an hour to get around their route and get back to the same spot,” said Bob Becker, the maintenance engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation’s St. Louis district. So if it's snowing an inch plus an hour, there'll be an inch of snow when we get back again. So that really is difficult to keep up with, and those roads are going to get slick."

Patrol Cpl. Juston Wheetley, a spokesman for the state Highway Patrol troop that covers the St. Louis area, urged drivers to slow down and leave plenty of space between them and the car in front of them. Speed and overconfidence play the biggest role in most crashes, he said.

"A lot of it has to do with pickup trucks and four-wheel drives. Yes, they may go better, but no vehicle is going to stop any better. And the heavier that vehicle is, the longer it's going to take to stop on these type of roadways,” Wheetley said.

Sgt. Mike Mitchell, with the highway patrol troop in Rolla, urged drivers, especially those traveling in rural areas, to have a winter driving kit.

“Pack some snacks, some extra water, make sure you have your cellphone charger and those items are charged, and make sure their fuel tank is full,” he said.

Snow plows clear roadways in St. Louis on Monday afternoon.
Credit Shahla Farzan | St. Louis Public Radio

Original story from Dec. 15

A winter storm moved into the St. Louis area late Sunday morning, producing the first taste of a snowfall forecast to total as much as 8 inches in some northern spots with up to a quarter-inch of ice accumulation. 

Multiple accidents closed roads and caused significant delays throughout the region Sunday. 

As of 8 p.m., the Missouri State Highway Patrol reported 159 crashes in the region, with four fatalities, one of which was not related to the weather. The Missouri Department of Transportation reported westbound I-64 (Highway 40) was closed past Clayton Road on Sunday afternoon, and southbound Highway TT in St. Charles County was closed until further notice.

The agency also reported delays and temporary road closures on westbound I-70 in Warren County, westbound I-270 before Tesson Ferry Road, eastbound I-44 in Franklin County and elsewhere.

As of 4 p.m., roads in downtown St. Louis were slushy, but there was little accumulation apart from on grassy areas. 

A family headed home to New Mexico on a road trip paused in St. Louis for a snowy visit to the Gateway Arch.
Credit Jeremy D. Goodwin | St. Louis Public Radio

The snowfall made for a temporary alteration to some of the city’s most famous scenery. Scattered sightseers seemed unperturbed as they strolled through the Gateway Arch National Park grounds, with the snow providing a backdrop for pictures. 

One group of visitors was driving home to New Mexico from a children’s track meet in Wisconsin before making a detour to visit the Arch. When the group entered the facility to take the ride to the top, the ground was free of snow. By the time they took in the view from above, they said, conditions had changed dramatically.

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“Looking down, we just assumed it was going to be clear,” Jacquelyn Sanchez said. “And we looked down, and there was a blizzard down there. It was a sight to see — but we couldn’t really see anything.”

The National Weather Service forecast calls for “heavy mixed precipitation” until midnight, with snowfall rates possibly exceeding an inch per hour. 

It advises that the hazardous road conditions caused by the storm could stretch into the Monday morning commute and beyond. The forecast calls for snow to taper off into freezing rain and drizzle Sunday night but to turn back into snow on Monday.

MoDOT is recommending that people delay their Monday morning commute or stay home if possible. 

Follow Jeremy on Twitter @JeremyDGoodwin

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