Winter storm wreaks havoc across Missouri

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Snow, freezing rain and sleet continued Tuesday across much of Missouri, causing hundreds of accidents, prompting power outages and forcing schools and colleges to close for the day. Vernon County schools were closed, bringing about game and activity cancellations.

Ice-covered roads in Vernon County led to a string of traffic crashes, most of them taking place in the early evening. Northbound lanes of U.S. 71 were shut down for some time Monday evening following a head-on collision that left five people injured. Sgt. M. Harwell of the Missouri State Highway Patrol and local emergency personnel were called to respond to an accident at 4:45 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 26, five miles north of Nevada on U.S. 71 in which Raymond Weaver, 44, of Pittsburg Kan., had lost control of the south bound 1995 Ford he was driving on the icy road, crossed the median, and ran head-on into a north bound 2004 Chevrolet driven by Robert W. Brooks, 29, of Nevada, Mo. Weaver and his passenger, Kenneth K. Phillips, 19, of Pittsburg Kan., were both seriously injured and taken to the Nevada Regional Medical Center. Neither man was wearing a safety device.

Two passengers in the Brook's vehicle were also seriously injured. Kipton W. Brooks, 7, of Nevada was wearing a seatbelt but suffered serious injuries. Michelle D. Brooks, 33, of Nevada, was not wearing a seatbelt and was seriously injured. Robert W. Brooks was not restrained by a safety device and suffered minor injuries. All three were transported to the Nevada Regional Medical Center. Both vehicles were totaled.

Another injury accident took place at about 4:30 p.m., Monday, on U.S. 54, about five miles west of El Dorado Springs, when Sena L. Watkins, 83, of El Dorado Springs, lost control of the 1997 Mercury she was driving and slid off the ice-covered roadway into a ditch, where the vehicle came to rest on its side. Watkins suffered minor injuries and was transported to Cedar County Memorial Hospital in El Dorado Springs.

The storm system that arrived Monday spared much of northern Missouri. A path through central Missouri was hit hard, but the southern part of the state took the brunt of it. Three deaths were blamed on the weather -- all of them in accidents on slick roads.

Forecasters were calling for additional waves of snow and/or freezing rain and/or sleet through Tuesday night.

Snowfall accumulations ranged up to about 3 inches, but snow wasn't the biggest problem. National Weather Service meteorologist Fred Glass said West Plains got a half-inch of ice. Cape Girardeau got an inch of mostly sleet with some freezing rain. Poplar Bluff got a 2-inch mix of freezing rain and sleet. Towns like Cuba and Steelville got 2-3 inches of accumulation that was largely ice.

''It's just a glaze of ice,'' Glass said. ''It's pretty dangerous. We've got accumulations of freezing rain and sleet throughout the southern part of the state.''

In Nevada, the layer of ice was thin but still treacherous.

The ice not only made roads slippery but weighed down power lines and snapped branches. The utility company AmerenUE reported about 4,700 outages Tuesday morning, mostly in the Missouri Bootheel region. A basketball game in Hume was postponed due to a power outage. Schools across much of the state told students to stay home. Some colleges and universities also called off classes, including Cottey College in Nevada. In the St. Louis area alone, about 700 schools were closed.

The foul weather made driving treacherous. In all three fatal wrecks, the driver slid on ice and struck a tree, the Missouri State Highway Patrol said.

Timothy Upton, 46, of Webb City, died Monday afternoon when his sport utility vehicle slid off a Jasper County road two miles west of Joplin. About 80 miles east in Christian County, the patrol said Paula Meyer, 39, was killed Monday afternoon when the vehicle she was riding in ran off an ice-covered road near Rogersville.

And late Monday afternoon in St. Francois County in eastern Missouri, 18-year-old Mallory Hicks of Bonne Terre died when her car slid off the road, struck a tree and overturned.

Lambert Airport in St. Louis reported 13 canceled arriving flights and 22 canceled departures. But spokesman Jeff Lea said the airfield itself was dry and free of ice by mid-morning.

Forecasts called for continued winter weather through Tuesday and continued cold weather until a warming trend into the upper 30s and 40s for the weekend.

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