COLUMBIA — Meteorologists are predicting a wintry weather mix this weekend, and mid-Missouri might be seeing a white Christmas.
According to the Area Forecast Discussion on the National Weather Service website, meteorologists are on the lookout for a "significant" storm from Thursday night until Christmas Eve.
Slow down. Reducing your speed is the easiest way to avoid dangerous situations.
Allow extra following distance. Give yourself more room in front of your car when roads get slippery. Also, allow snow plows and emergency vehicles plenty of room to do their work.
Know your route and be aware of weather conditions. Having a solid plan and being prepared for potential inclement weather is essential for your safety. For up-to-date road information you can check the MoDot website or call 888-Ask-MoDot to speak with a customer service representative about the current road conditions.
Always travel with a full tank of gas. If you are somehow delayed or detoured you may burn through more fuel than would normally be required for a trip. Make sure your car battery is sufficiently charged and your engine fluids are in good condition.
If you get stuck, stay in your vehicle. Doing this keeps you warm and out of danger. If you slid into a ditch, another car could follow. Keep your engine running and be sure your tailpipe is clear from obstructions so your car won't fill with deadly carbon monoxide.
Pack a winter travel safety kit. Include a cell phone, ice scraper, tow rope, cat litter for traction, blankets, flashlight, matches and weather radio. Other good things to have are jumper cables, road flares and an air compressor that can plug into the cigarette lighter.
Keep your tires in good condition. Cold temperatures can reduce your tire pressure to dangerous levels. Having sufficient tread is essential to maintaining traction. Be sure your spare tire is properly inflated as well.
Know how to recover from skids. If you start to skid, steer the vehicle gently in the direction you want the front of the vehicle to go and avoid slamming on the breaks. It's best to keep a light touch on the controls and avoid clenching the steering wheel to ensure smooth operation. Traction control systems and four-wheel drive will not help you much once you've already lost control of the vehicle.
Make frequent rest stops. Take a moment to stretch, reduce fatigue and increase alertness.
Sources: Missouri Department of Transportation, National Weather Service, MSNBC.com
"We have several atmospheric models that we watch to predict the weather, to watch the general trends," said Scott Truett, senior forecaster for the National Weather Service in St. Louis.
Truett said the different models are all predicting some sort of winter precipitation, but the exact types and amounts vary at this point.
"It's a little early to be saying for sure, but it looks like this storm is going to be impacting the central U.S. beginning on Wednesday, with the storm system moving into the eastern U.S. on Friday," he said.
Many people will be hitting the road over Christmas weekend, and Truett said the storm could cause some issues.
"In general, it'll be impeding travel," he said. "The best advice is to monitor forecasts and be aware of the weather."
In the event of icy or snowy roadways, the Missouri Department of Transportation recommends staying inside if possible until it can properly clear the roads.
Mike Belt, maintenance superintendent for MoDOT's Jefferson City district, said the department is watching the weather just like everybody else.
"Prior to the storm we'll bring crews out to physically watch the road conditions so when it does it we'll be ready," he said.
Once the storm starts, MoDOT will bring out more crews to begin clearing or treating the roads.
"We'll bring out our whole 171-vehicle fleet if we need to," Belt said. "We will work 24/7."
Zac Evans, meteorologist at KRCG-TV, said mid-Missouri can expect rain Wednesday night that will turn into freezing rain Thursday, and then become snow and sleet Thursday night into Friday.
Truett said the historical probability of a white Christmas for mid-Missouri is between 10 to 25 percent.