COLUMBIA — Freezing rain hit southwest Missouri early Monday, closing schools and prompting the Missouri State Highway Patrol to urge people to stay off the roads.
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for much of southern and central Missouri on Monday morning. Up to an inch of ice was expected across much of southern and central Missouri as the freezing rain spread eastward from the Kansas line. In Columbia, the prediction was for a 30 percent chance of snow with a high of 20. The forecast for Monday night calls for a 60 percent chance of snow with less than one-half of an inch of new accumulation.
Late Monday morning, the Missouri Department of Transportation reported that major highways were snow or ice covered across much of the southern one-third of Missouri, including U.S. 54 from Jefferson City to Lake of the
Ozarks. For the latest road conditions around Missouri, go to www.modot.org.
“Some of it is freezing rain, some is ice pellets, some is sleet,” said Bill Davis, chief meteorologist for the Weather Service in Springfield. More rain later Monday could add another glaze because temperatures were expected to remain near freezing, he said.
The highway patrol reported numerous cars sliding off roads and some injury accidents.
“It’s treacherous. If you can stay home this morning, do it,” said Sgt. Dan Bracker of the Highway Patrol in Springfield.
The storm prompted Gov. Matt Blunt to cancel a series of news conferences.
Blunt had planned to talk about a biodiesel mandate and efforts to curb cattle rustling at events in Springfield, Kansas City, St. Joseph, Columbia and St. Louis. He also canceled a dinner event in Kennett to speak about economic development at the Chamber of Commerce.
Several counties closed their courthouses for the day, including Greene and Christian.
The state Department of Transportation said conditions could get worse despite salt trucks that are working main highways and other roads. Bob Edwards, from the transportation department’s Springfield office, said drivers should expect all roads, including major highways, to be at least partly iced or slushy.
A lightning strike from the storm front was blamed for starting a fire that engulfed a self-storage facility in Monett, officials there said.
About 20 families from the surrounding neighborhood were evacuated because of thick smoke, concerns about flames spreading and because of small amounts of hazardous materials including lacquer and paint thinner.
The winter storm warning was in effect until about midnight, the Weather Service said. Freezing rain, sleet and a chance of thunderstorms were predicted, with accumulations up to 1 inch.
More sleet and freezing rain were expected Monday evening, with a chance of snow after midnight, the Weather Service said. A winter weather advisory is in effect until 6 a.m. Tuesday. Snow and sleet accumulations of 1 to 4 inches are possible, the Weather Service said.