The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • RECORD-SHATTERING COLD: Deep freeze follows large snowfall

  • Rolla residents woke up Monday morning not only to a foot of snow in some spots but record-breaking temperatures as well.
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  • Rolla residents woke up Monday morning not only to a foot of snow in some spots but record-breaking temperatures as well.
    The National Weather Service (NWS) reported the heaviest snowfall occurred along the Interstate 44 corridor where 7 to 12 inches of snow fell. Gusty northwest winds of 20 to 35 mph at times caused significant blowing and drifting of snow throughout the area.
    At 8 p.m. Sunday, the NWS received a report of 12 inches of snow from the Phelps County's emergency management director, 7 miles south-southwest of Rolla. The emergency director also measured 12 inches near Vida and along Highway O south of Rolla. There was 8-12 inches of snow measured throughout Phelps County.
    The snow and frigid temperatures caused Rolla, Newburg R-2, St. James R-1 and Phelps County R-3 in Edgar Springs school districts to cancel classes Monday. Several businesses also closed as did the Phelps County Courthouse offices.
    While Rolla city offices and Rolla Municipal Utilities were open Monday, the city council meeting Monday night was cancelled.
    All Phelps County Regional Medical Center clinics including the Bond Clinic, the Medical Office Building (MOB) located on the PCRMC campus that houses the PCRMC Medical Group, The Pain Clinic with Dr. Kunkel and the OR cases were closed Monday due to weather. All services are expected to resume Tuesday weather-permitting.
    Rolla Public Schools, Phelps County R-3 School in Edgar Springs, Newburg R-2 Schools and St. James Schools will not be in session today — Tuesday, Jan. 7 — due to continued hazardous road conditions coupled with frigid morning temperatures.
    Missouri University of Science and Technology also closed Monday but was scheduled to reopen Tuesday as weather conditions are expected to improve throughout the day.
    The NWS reported a temperature of -10 degrees at 8 a.m. at the Rolla National Airport with a wind chill of -34 degrees. The previous coldest temperature for Jan. 6 was -2 degrees recorded in 1968.
    The high on Monday at the airport was 1 degree F, the all-time coldest ever on the date of Jan. 6. This also ties the all-time coldest daily high temperature ever on record, according to the NWS. According to Mike Griffin of the NWS office in Springfield, Mo., Tuesday should warm up some, with a high temperature expected to reach the freezing mark.
    Wednesday could see a light snow or wintry mix falling in the afternoon with an accumulation of 1-2 inches by Wednesday night, added Griffin.
    Thursday and Friday temperatures should return to normal. Griffin said that Saturday's temperatures could reach into the 50s.
    Clearing the way
    Twelve trucks have been running the streets on 12-hour shifts twice a day since the snow started, Rolla Public Works Director Steve Hargis said.
    "We've pretty much made it through (all the streets) once," he said Monday afternoon. "They're clear (of snow), but they're still ice-covered."
    Page 2 of 3 - Hargis said seven dump trucks were out spreading the combination of rock salt, sand, sawdust and beet juice. Six of those trucks had blades to clear the snow. In addition, five pickups were fitted with blades for snow plowing.
    "We're getting a little low" on the materials to spread on the streets, he said. "There's no salt to be had. I've made several calls and there is none available."
    The sawdust and sand are used as "stretchers" to spread the salt out.
    "Salt has doubled in cost," Hargis said. The beet juice replaces calcium chloride; its freezing point is the same and it isn't as corrosive as the calcium chloride.
    "We haven't had a snow like this for a long time," Hargis said, so some residents may have either forgotten what snow removal is like or are new to a harsh winter. When the snow on the streets is pushed aside, "We end up closing driveways," Hargis said.
    He expressed regret about that happening, but the snow removed from the streets has to go somewhere.
    For Rolla Municipal Utilities, the snow hasn't posed any problem. Cold has made at least one job miserable.
    "Snow really doesn't impact us a whole lot," RMU General Manager Rodney Bourne said. "Our only problem was a water main that broke Sunday morning in the vicinity of 10th and Iowa. It was an old water main. It could have been caused by the cold."
    Whether cold caused it or not, it was a cold job to repair the main.
    "Imagine putting your hands in icy water. It's cold," Bourne said.
    The only other problem that might arise in the extreme cold is an overworked transformer.
    "No reports have come to me yet" of any blown transformers, Bourne said.
    The biggest concern, he said, is the customers who don't lower their thermostats, or who raise their thermostats in response to the cold, will be surprised in the next couple of months.
    "Your utility bills will reflect that," he said.
    Snow blamed for crashes
    The snowstorm and sub-zero temperatures resulted in Missouri State Highway Patrol's Troop I officers responding to 85 crashes and assisting 100 motorists who have either been stranded or slid off the highway as of 1:40 p.m. Monday.
    Snow and slick roads were the cause of a pile-up accident on Interstate 44 in St. James on Sunday around 10:30 a.m.
    According to the patrol's Troop I Public Information and Education Officer Danny Crain, a tractor-trailer jackknifed at mile marker 195 at the St. James exit, causing a chain reaction of collisions. Three tractor-trailers and a car were involved in the non-injury crash.
    "With this much snow, the roads are going to be slick for some time," said Crain. "Stay inside if you can until this all clears up."
    Page 3 of 3 - In Rolla, Paula Volkmer, communications chief for central dispatch at Rolla Police Department, said, “We’ve had our fair share (of calls). It hasn’t been overwhelming. There have been several assist-motorist calls, some minor accidents and private property accidents.”
    From Saturday through mid-afternoon Monday, there were 15 accidents reported to central dispatch, "which is high,” Volkmer said, “but none of them were injury accidents. It’s been manageable.”
    The Rolla Police Department reported a weather-related accident occurred Sunday on Iris Court. A 2010 Chevrolet 3500, which was a city-owned vehicle plowing snow, operated by Timothy Feeler, 50, of Edgar Springs, backed into a parked and unoccupied 1989 Ford F-150 owned by Joe Boze, of Rolla. Damage to both vehicles was minor; there were no reported injuries.
    Capt. Lee Ann H. Kenley, commanding officer of Troop I, noted that the primary causes of most crashes on ice- and snow-covered roads are excessive speed and insufficient following distance. Slick road surfaces can increase a vehicle’s stopping distance by 10-fold over normal conditions.
    Motorists should be aware that road conditions can change dramatically along the same highway. A relatively clear section of road should not be considered the signal for a driver to immediately increase his or her speed.
    Kenley added that it is important to plan ahead for dangerous driving situations by making sure that your gas tank never nears the empty mark and that extra clothes, blankets, food and water are in your vehicle.
    Another consideration before leaving should be checking your cellphone to make sure that it is fully charged and having the capability to keep it charged while traveling.
    If an emergency situation does arise, call the patrols’ emergency line at 1-800-525-5555 or *55 on a cellphone.
    “The perils of severe winter weather can be life-threatening if we do not plan ahead and make prudent decisions,” Kenley said. “This is especially true when traveling. For that reason, I, again, would like to take this opportunity to encourage all Missourians to stay home and off the highways until the roads are cleared adequately for safe travel.”
    The public can verify the state's road conditions by calling the Missouri Road Condition Report Line at 1-888-275-6636, checking MoDOT’s road condition map.
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