The National Weather Service (NWS) in Springfield issued a situation report early Wednesday morning warning that the potential for ice accumulation, as part of the winter storm that will be moving into the area Thursday night and Friday morning, is increasing.
"At this time, it appears that areas along Highway 60 and Interstate 44 will have the potential of seeing between one quarter and one half inch of total ice accumulation," the NWS said.

The National Weather Service (NWS) in Springfield issued a situation report early Wednesday morning warning that the potential for ice accumulation, as part of the winter storm that will be moving into the area Thursday night and Friday morning, is increasing.
"At this time, it appears that areas along Highway 60 and Interstate 44 will have the potential of seeing between one quarter and one half inch of total ice accumulation," the NWS said.
The NWS is still not confident in totals because the freezing line "will make slow progress back to the north Friday into Saturday, but it is unclear how quickly this will occur. Northeast winds will have a tendency to reinforce the cold air."
"While confidence is relatively high in the occurrence of freezing rain, confidence in duration and exact amounts remains low," the NWS said.
According to the NWS, the accumulation of ice will be "highly dependent on the location and evolution of the surface freezing line."
As of the Wednesday morning advisory, the freezing line is "expected to be located across the Highway 60 corridor as precipitation begins Thursday night."
"It should be noted that temperature changes of just one degree could have major impacts on final ice accumulation totals," The NWS said.
Missourians who weathered the 2007 ice storm remember the kind of damage that accumulating ice can bring with loss of power and damage to trees. Many people were without power from anywhere between hours to weeks.

No electricity is inconvenient for most—not an emergency

Rolla Municipal Utilities (RMU) knows a prediction of a half-inch of ice isn’t good news. They’re busy checking chainsaws and fuel levels in trucks, as they run down their checklist to get ready for the storm.
“Up to a quarter-inch, we probably won’t have any problems,” said RMU General Manager Rodney Bourne. “With a half-inch, we’ll have more problems.”
Bourne says tree limbs cause the problems and that’s why RMU has a tree trimming crew that works year-round to trim potential problem limbs.
“We try to eliminate the problems throughout the year, but that doesn’t mean we can eliminate all of them,” he says.
“The more mature the trees are in your neighborhood, the more likely you may be out of power in an ice-storm. Even if a subdivision has underground power lines, these are fed from an overhead line somewhere.”
With high winds, those mature trees could be a problem.

“Our plan right now, if we get into a major event, is to have most of our staff on duty for a 12-hour shift during the day, because that’s when we can see and therefore be most productive,” Bourne explains.
“We’ll have at least one shift on the graveyard shift over the evening hours. Most of the work will happen during the day. We will also have staffing in the service department monitoring the system.” Bourne says this team looks at outage reports and will make work plans, so we will know where the crews are working.
“If it gets really bad, we will have our staff working 24 hours in our business office to answer the phones.”

Bourne wants their customers to understand that they have a control and monitoring system in place to monitor all of the substations for outages. “We will know of an open breaker in a substation [creating an outage] before they can pick up the phone and call,” he says.
“If their power is out along with their neighbors, there’s a 99 percent chance we already know the power is out.”
This is the kind of information RMU would like from a customer without power:  If a tree fell in their backyard onto a line, or they see something, they can help RMU pinpoint that problem area. “Those are the calls we want to get, because it gets our crews to the point of the problem area, fastest,” he says.
 
He notes RMU has a methodical operation. The first first thing they do is get their substations back on-line. The next focus is getting emergency services back on-line, so the hospital and all the emergency responders have power.
“Then for the next eight hours to the next eight days, our goal is to get as many people on-line as we can, to restore the power the fastest,” he concludes.  
“We’re going to work on things that will get hundreds to a thousand customers on at the same time. Then we’ll move to work on problems that will get 10 to 50 people back on at the same time. Then we’ll work with single customer issues or a transformer that serves five people. Our whole focus is going the most people on, the fastest.”
Bourne says he knows a few customers will be unhappy if their neighbors have power and they don’t. “That crew may spend four hours getting those few people back on or they could spend those four hours getting 100 people on,” he reasons.
Calling 20 times to be the squeaky wheel doesn’t help. Bourne says RMU doesn’t play favorites, and will only follow their priority plan to serve as many as possible in the shortest period of time.
Bourne encourages their customers to get up-to-date information on their Facebook page, but says time frames for power restoration in any particular area will not be posted due to changing conditions as they arise.
“Unless it is truly an emergency, such as a line down and arcing in the street, we encourage people not to call 911 or the Rolla Police Department to report an outage, he says.
For those customers that have generators, he cautions to have them hooked up properly by a professional electrician. “If they are not hooked up properly they can reverse-flow the electricity back into the lines and one of our lineman thinking a line is dead, could be injured or killed.”

Additionally, RMU would like to encourage members to prepare for the possibility of outages by doing the following:
 ·    Keep a battery-operated radio, flashlight and extra batteries on hand.
 ·    Gather extra blankets or a sleeping bag for each person. Do not use gas stoves, kerosene heaters or other open-flame heat sources to prevent deadly carbon monoxide gas from building up in your home.
 ·    Have a supply of bottled water. Have items on hand that don’t require refrigeration and can be eaten without cooking or preparation.
 ·    If someone in your home is dependent on electric-powered, life-sustaining medical equipment, review your family emergency plan for back-up power, or make arrangements to relocate when a warning is issued. Make sure to have enough prescription medicines on hand.
 
“If the power goes out, take a deep breath—it’s an inconvenience, but in most cases it’s not an emergency.”

Cinders and salt
The county and the city are also gearing up for slick roads. Phelps County Road Superintendent Walter Snelson said 154 T. of salt was delivered on Tuesday. “We’ll be fully staffed,” he said. “We won’t start spreading salt until it starts to freeze. We’ll hit the high traffic areas first like Old St. James Rd., Rolla Street  and Martin Springs—all the way to Sugartree.”
Snelson says it’s tough to plan because of the unpredictable nature of this storm—the latitude where rain stops and ice begins.
“With this storm coming in, you never know when it’s going to start freezing, so we’ll start out with four trucks,” he explains. “If it starts getting bad, I call then all in.”
Snelson says the county will use a mixture of salt and cinders mixed with pea gravel and sawdust. “We use bigger rock salt and when the traffic get on it to crush it, it really starts working,” he says.

The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) has also issued an advisory for reduced travel in Missouri this weekend, warning that motorists "should avoid travel if possible in Missouri late Thursday night through Sunday."
“MoDOT crews will be out ahead of the storm using a mixture of chemicals and abrasives including salt brine and salt,” said MoDOT State Maintenance Engineer Becky Allmeroth. “Ice is the most difficult storm to fight. With large areas of the state expected to get a half inch or more, it can cause downed power lines and potential roadway closures. Motorists should avoid travel this weekend if at all possible.”
MoDOT's advisory warned that, if a section of highway is shut down for extended periods, "motorists should heed the warnings on the digital signs and exit the highway at the next available exit."
“All week, our crews have been gathering chain saws, chippers and other equipment that will be important when we have downed trees from the ice accumulation,” Allmeroth said. “If there are power outages, please treat dark signals as a four-way stop. Stay away from downed lines.”
MoDOT also urges drivers to consider putting chains of vehicles if travel is necessary and taking precautions such as having a full tank of gas, extra blankets and gloves, having water and snacks, wearing a seat-belt, leaving plenty of space behind other vehicles, giving snow plows plenty of room to work, and not to drive distracted.
"To check road conditions including winter weather conditions and traffic speeds, please check MoDOT’s Traveler Information Map at http://traveler.modot.org/map/. The map is also available as a free app on iTunes and Google play listed as MoDOT Traveler Information. MoDOT’s customer service center is available for information 24 hours a day at 1-888-ASK-MODOT (275-6636)," MoDOT said.

It’s good news to know Rolla and Phelps County are prepared and it comes with a hopeful silver lining. The latest weather report isn’t calling for frigid temperatures, so any ice that does accumulate could be melting by Sunday.