Winter overstays its welcome

Thursday, February 21, 2008 | 9:57 p.m. CST; updated 1:17 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008
A winter storm moved through Columbia Thursday, dumping wintry mix throughout the day and making for sloppy sidewalks and slush-soaked shoes.

COLUMBIA — A winter storm dropped sleet and freezing rain on Columbia Thursday, and frankly, many people are sick of it.

“I hate the snow,” said Karen Ellis, who was spending the day with granddaughter Constance in the pool at the Activity and Recreation Center on Ash Street. The Columbia Public School District called off classes, cars trudged over icy roads and residents were reminded that winter isn’t over quite yet.

The good and the bad

The good news: Your perennials are safe. The bad news: Your trees may not be. According to Bob McConnell at McConnell’s Plantland, nothing can be done to keep trees safe from ice accumulation. “After the ice, people should seek help pruning their trees,” he said.

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“I don’t know why I still live here,” Ellis said.

“I am more than ready for spring,” agreed MU student Alex Zweig, who was drinking coffee at Rendezvous, located at 3304 Broadway Business Park. To add to their distress, forecasters expected yet another slug of ice and snow overnight.

“Basically, we’ll see continuation of freezing rain, as much as three or four inches of sleet or snow, and maybe up to one-third of an inch of ice coating,” said Tony Lupo, associate professor of atmospheric science at MU.

The odd combination of 20-degree weather and rain was caused by two separate layers of air, he said.

“You’ve got a cold but shallow layer of air that came down from the north,” Lupo said. “That’s being overridden by the warm air from the south.”

Jill Allen, a travel consultant for Summit Travel on Broadway in Columbia, said about half of her clients book trips to tropical destinations when they tire of winter.

The most popular foreign destinations, she said, are all-inclusive resorts in Cancun, Mexico, and Playa del Carmen, a tourist hideaway 40

miles south of Cancun.

“To really guarantee warm, you’ve gotta leave the country,” she said. “Some people settle for California or Florida and just know it’s better there than it is here.”

Those who can’t get away are stuck with their own resourcefulness.

Lunching together near the carousel at Columbia Mall, Teresa Simms and her 15-year-old daughter Rachel commiserated after a morning of shopping.

“It’s like getting hit on the head with little salt pebbles,” Rachel said about the sleet.

Slick sidewalks and driveways prompted customers to deplete the supply of Ice Melt at Westlake Ace Hardware on Business Loop 70.

“We ran out around 11,” Kim Rosenburg said. “People were understanding though.”

The store also sold a volume of tube sand to help drivers weigh down their vehicles.

Not everyone, however, found the winter storm dispiriting.

Nine-year-old Sue Kim, who spent part of the snow day playing on mats at the ARC, wasn’t the least bit sorry.

“I like winter,” she whispered, an impish grin on her face.

It also gave a day of rest to Columbia’s public school teachers.

Tom Whelihan, a physical education teacher for Russell Boulevard and Cedar Ridge elementary schools, said he liked having a chance to stay home with his kids.

At Strawberry Hill Farms on East Highway 163, the Sapp family was basking in their temperature-controlled surroundings.

“We work in a greenhouse environment,” Joyce Sapp said. “We’re out in a plastic house all day, so it’s pretty great for us.”

Yet they, too, were eager for spring.

“Good sunny warm days equal free heat,” Sapp said.

Over the weekend, temperatures are expected to edge closer to normal with highs around the low 40s.

Andy Blattner didn’t seem to care. He was smiling as he carried groceries home on foot Thursday since his car was in the shop.

“It’s Missouri and it’s February,” he said. “It could be a lot worse.”

Missourian reporters Robert McMahon, Nichole Wade, Kathryn Darnell and Rose Raymond contributed to this story.

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