HANNIBAL — The first major winter storm of the year for Northeast Missouri began sweeping through the area Tuesday, and officials are urging motorists to practice caution due to changing and dangerous conditions expected throughout the holiday week.
Marisa Ellison, communications member with the Missouri Department of Transportation, said snow crews had equipment ready and performed a winter drill at the beginning of November. The area has so far only seen a bit of snow last month, but the National Weather Service is predicting snow, sleet, freezing rain and rain with temperatures hovering around 32 degrees — which Ellison said creates dangerous driving conditions.
The National Weather Service issued winter storm warnings for parts of Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota and Wisconsin. National Weather Service meteorologist Roger Vachalek said the storm could be especially concerning for drivers.
“The wet, heavy snow is very slippery ... that could cause more crashes and people need to be aware of that,” Vachalek said.
MoDOT crews were prepared for the storm. Ellison said there were plenty of crew members ready to drive trucks and plenty of salt and other materials to help melt snow or provide traction. She urged motorists to slow down and give snowplows plenty of space as they work to keep the roads clear and safe.
“We’re on snow patrol this week,” Ellison said.
Ellison said roads could be snowy, icy or slushy when the temperature is near 32 degrees. She said motorists can check road conditions at www.modot.org. If roads remain icy, she said drivers should consider changing New Year’s Eve plans.
AccuWeather said parts of northern Missouri and southern Iowa could see ice accumulations of up to a quarter of an inch, which could weigh down power lines and branches and cause power outages.
Missouri State Highway Patrol officials also reminded motorists to buckle up and avoid distractions as the storm comes. MSHP said it’s important to have at least a half tank of gas in the vehicle, and recommend packing emergency supplies in the trunk like an ice scraper, battery booster cables, blankets, extra coats, gloves, water, non-perishable food, a first aid kit, a flashlight, a small shovel and a bag of sand or cat litter.
A traffic crash can close a roadway for several hours, and motorists should make sure their cell phones are charged. The patrol reminded motorists to make sure they are well off the roadway or in a parking lot before using the phone.
More information about local road conditions and closures is available by visiting www.modot.org.