Winter weather caught motorists by surprise on Sunday afternoon and kept local law enforcement, the Highway Patrol, and other first responders very busy.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) reported that Troop I, the troop that serves Pulaski and Phelps counties, responded to 147 traffic crashes on Sunday, Feb. 4 after snow began to fall Sunday afternoon in the region.
Troop I responded to 228 calls for service between 2:15 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. yesterday, Feb. 4. Out of these calls, 147 were for traffic crashes. The MSHP reported 24 injuries and one fatality due to these wrecks. Of the injuries, four were reported as serious, with other minor and moderate injury reports rounding out the numbers. Those numbers do not include slide-offs and other minor accidents that were taken care of individually or by other law enforcement agencies.
Throughout the afternoon and into the evening, 1-44 was closed in three locations for four hours.
Sgt. Cody Fulkerson of MSHP Troop I commented on the wreck in the Rolla area.
“I think our troopers did a phenomenal job, as well as other emergency responders,” said Sgt. Fulkerson. He explained that other first responders made their way to the scene, including the Red Cross who monitored drivers and passengers stuck in their vehicles during the road closure, handing out water to those who needed it.
More than 30 vehicles were involved in the accident near Rolla, which Sgt. Fulkerson estimated was a single crash that spiraled into more accidents on the road.
“It doesn’t take much of a glaze on the highway to cause major problems,” said Fulkerson. “We’re very blessed in the Troop I region, that so many people come to help out.”
The Kansas City Star reported the wrecks began on I-44 around 2 p.m., with Rolla’s being the worst. According to the MSHP, at least three other separate crashes on the interstate involved “around a dozen vehicles each.”
Another wreck caused serious issues on I-44 near the Laclede County and Pulaski County lines. This crash proved fatal to Deborah Anderson, of Ballwin, Mo. According to MSHP, there were two vehicles stopped in the left lane and on the shoulder due to another crash ahead. Ten more vehicles became involved in the crash, one after the other as slick conditions contributed to vehicles hitting one another.
Another round of weather is expected today, according to the National Weather Service (NWS) in Springfield. As of 4 a.m. Monday, NWS is predicting that a winter weather system will move into the region Tuesday afternoon.
Included in the forecast is the possibility of several different types of winter weather, including, freezing rain, sleet, and snow.
The afternoon will see a possible wintery mix where all areas are expected to see some impact. NWS warned, in its situation report, that a "shift in temperature, just a degree or two, will make a difference in precipitation type."
NWS said the local area could expect between a half inch to two inches of snow and the model shows the line between an inch and two inches running through the middle of Pulaski and Phelps Counties.
The same cannot be said for ice. The expected accumulation map for ice in the Phelps and Pulaski County areas shows 0.03 to 0.01 between Fort Leonard Wood and Rolla. and the region is firmly in the 0.01 to 0.10 inch area.
Snowfall predictions range from an inch to two inches for the region, however the line between one and two inches runs through the middle of both Phelps and Pulaski Counties.
The hazardous weather outlook issued by NWS about the system warns that "locations along that south of Interstate 44 could see up to 0.10 inch of ice accumulation." Residents of the region are also cautioned against the possibility of very low wind chills.