ST. LOUIS — Two days after Missourians played outdoors in shorts and flip-flops, much of the state on Tuesday was digging out after yet another winter storm brought up to 8 inches of snow.
The latest batch of frigid, slippery weather hit first in southwest Missouri and made its way northeast through the St. Louis area. But just a few counties north of St. Louis, in places like Bowling Green and Hannibal, little or no snow was expected.
Hard to believe that Sunday's high in St. Louis was 77 degrees.
The latest weather follows two severe storms in February and lesser storms in December and January. The constant need to keep roads and highways cleared is taking a toll. Missouri Department of Transportation spokesman Jeff Briggs said countless tons of salt have been spread — enough, he said, to fill Mizzou Arena — and the supplies are starting to get thin.
"It has been our busiest winter in many years," Briggs said. "We've used up tons of salt. We're not in danger of running out, but if we get a couple more surprise storms here in March we could be hurting."
The snow snarled morning commutes in Springfield and St. Louis and closed schools in much of southern, central and eastern Missouri. Lambert Airport in St. Louis reported nearly 80 flight cancellations. Missouri State University in Springfield canceled classes for the day. Boeing suspended its second and third shifts at facilities in suburban St. Louis and St. Charles. The Missouri Highway Patrol urged motorists to stay off the roads, saying stuck vehicles were keeping snow plows from doing their job.
In Springfield, the snow was coming down at a rate of 2 inches an hour overnight, frustrating efforts to plow. Springfield police closed a stretch of one major road, West Kearney Street, after a string of cars got stuck.
"The closer you get to Springfield, the worse it is," said Bob Edwards with the Transportation Department's Springfield office. "They have a real snowpack."
The storm appeared to be traveling a path almost directly along Interstate 44, where snow was packed on the road in some locations. Several accidents were blamed on the snow, but no fatalities were immediately reported.
Ben Miller of the National Weather Service office in suburban St. Louis said snowfall amounts — originally forecast for 6 to 10 inches in the region — would be less than predicted. Though some parts of eastern Missouri were expected to get 4 to 8 inches, the system was beginning to break up, Miller said, likely leaving other areas with no more than a couple of inches of snow.
Highs in much of the state were expected to be in the 30s for much of the week. Miller said the average high for early March is 50 degrees — a temperature that should finally be reached by this weekend.
That doesn't mean the worst of it is over. After an unusually harsh winter, Miller isn't conceding anything.
"The last three to four weeks, the long-range weather pattern has kept us in an active storm condition," Miller said. "It is March but I wouldn't say the long-range pattern is broken down completely."