ST. LOUIS (KMOX/AP) – The Missouri Department of Transportation says it is pretreating roads in the St. Louis-area Thursday in preparation for possibly the biggest ice storm in 10 years to hit about 10 to 11 a.m. Friday.
An Ice Storm Warning has been issued from 9 a.m. Friday through noon Sunday for much of the KMOX listening area.
“It feels like preparing for the flood last year,” says MoDOT district maintenance engineer Mark Croarkin. “We know that some really challenging weather is coming, and the difference between having a day or two of inconvenience and long-term repairs, we’re just right at that line.”
MoDOT hosted a press conference Thursday morning along with AAA and the Missouri State Highway Patrol. They are predicting the major storm to arrive earlier than previously expected, judging by reports from the National Weather Service.
MoDOT also warns that the forecasted temperatures put the area right on the edge of an even more dangerous situation. Current forecasts call for a low of 30 degrees on Friday and 33 degrees Saturday.
Before the last ice storm Dec. 16, the temperature was expected to be a few degrees above freezing, but was actually 31 degrees and that “made all the difference in the world.”
That storm was registered as a “trace or .01 of an inch of ice,” according to MoDOT, and this weekend’s storm is expected to bring up to .5 of an inch of ice.
Missouri State Highway Patrol Cpl. Justin Wheatley says it will be working with MoDOT and monitoring live roadway cameras, but hopes the public will just stay home if possible.
“If you find yourself stranded, you have to be aware it’s going to take us a while to get to you, as well as all the other emergency vehicles required to come and attend to you,” Wheatley says. “The best advice I can give is, if you don’t have to be out there, don’t be.'”
The patrol is urging bosses and school districts to allows employees and students to stay home Friday.
The patrol also said it will start towing vehicles that are parked on highways, because they need the shoulder to avoid traffic in order to get to emergency situations.
All of MoDOT’s over 200 trucks are out working the situation, and some trucks from southeast Missouri have been dispatched to provide help.
Concern about the storm prompted Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens to activate the state Emergency Operations Center in Jefferson City. Greitens told reporters at the center Thursday that he called a state of emergency and said the Missouri Transportation Department had started pretreating roads and would continue to do so throughout the storm.
“We’re going to be prepared for whatever the storm brings,” Greitens said.
The new governor asked people in the storm’s path to stay off roads late Thursday and Friday, both for safety and to allow emergency responders to work. He said he might ask businesses to shorten hours Friday. More than 3,500 responders started working 12-hour shifts, and the state’s Public Safety Department preemptively placed generators across the state for use in areas hit the hardest, he said.
Illinois Department of Transportation crews have been pretreating roads, bridges, overpasses and ramps in preparation.
Spokeswoman Kelsea Gurski says you should keep a few things in mind before you head out.
“The first thing that we want to remind motorist about is, they don’t have to travel if the roads are bad,” Gurski. “They really should ask them selves if they need to be on the road.”
She says if people do need to be on the road, leave early and allow plenty of time to get to their destination. She adds for drivers to make sure to leave enough room between you and another vehicle.
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