A potent early winter storm, packing snow and high winds, marched through Northeast Missouri and West-Central Illinois on Thursday.
In Hannibal, the high winds were keeping Board of Public Works busy.
“The gusty wind has been a problem,” said Jared Stewart, electric line superintendent for the BPW, who was out walking a line early Thursday afternoon looking for the cause of an outage that cut service to approximately 3,000 customers in the West Ely and Surrey Hills area. “I was expecting more problems actually than what we’ve had. Fifty mile an hour, gusty winds are not a good thing.”
The BPW’s woes started around 11 a.m., according to Heath Hall, the BPW’s director of operations.
“We had some primary (lines) on the ground on Market Street, which caused some outages for industrial customers and residential customers in the Oakwood area,” he said, estimating a “few hundred” customers lost power in southern Hannibal.
Understandably the outages have kept the phones ringing at the BPW.
“We’re inundated with phone calls. We have phone messages we’re still going through. We had to put double the amount of people answering the phone than we normally do to keep up,” said Hall.
The wind and snow made things challenging for BPW personnel.
“The wind is what’s causing the power outages,” said Hall. “The snow just makes it difficult to get to the areas.”
A rash of accidents have been reported on primary and secondary roads. Around 3:30 p.m. a multi-vehicle mishap involving a tractor-trailer was being reported just south of the Hannibal city limits on northbound U.S. 61. The trailer, filled with furniture, was blocking both lanes of the highway, causing a significant backup on the highway.
One responder heading to the U.S. 61 accident described the roadway as being “slick as crap.”
A tractor-trailer reportedly blocked both lanes of westbound U.S. 36 approximately two miles east of Monroe City shortly before noon.
Near Frankford, an accident with injuries involving a tractor-trailer and vehicle occurred.
In Shelby County, a school bus reportedly slid off a road and overturned. There were no immediate reports of injuries from the highway patrol.
Over in Illinois, a law enforcement officer reported sliding off into a ditch after encountering “white out” conditions.
The Missouri Department of Transportation reported closing U.S. 36 between Lancaster (U.S. 63) and Wayland (U.S. 27) Thursday afternoon due to poor visibility. Earlier in the day, I-29 in Northwest Missouri was closed for a time by MoDOT, which described driving conditions in the Kansas City and St. Joseph areas as “severe.” I-29 had been reopened by 3 p.m.
Page 2 of 2 - Fatal pileup
In Iowa, drivers were blinded by blowing snow and didn’t see vehicles that had slowed or stopped on I-35 about 60 miles north of Des Moines, state police said. A chain reaction of crashes involving semitrailers and passenger cars closed down a section of the highway. At least one person was killed.
Along with Thursday’s fatal accident in Iowa, the storm was blamed for road deaths in Kansas and Wisconsin. In southeastern Utah, a woman who tried to walk for help after her car became stuck in snow died Tuesday night.
The heavy, wet snow made some unplowed streets in Des Moines nearly impossible to navigate in anything other than a four-wheel drive vehicle. Even streets that had been plowed were snow-packed and slippery. Eight jackknifed semitrailers were reported on a section of Interstate 80 east of the city.
The storm made travel difficult from Kansas to Wisconsin, forcing road closures, including part of Interstate 29 in northern Missouri and part of Interstate 80 in Nebraska. Iowa and Wisconsin activated National Guard troops to help rescue stranded drivers.
Those who planned to fly before the Christmas holiday didn’t fare much better.
(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)