JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency and called the National Guard into duty on Monday afternoon as freezing rain fell in the state capital — the beginnings of a blizzard for Missouri.
The Missouri National Guard dispatched 600 citizen-soldiers into three areas of the state, centering on Springfield, St. Louis and Kansas City. The guard members will provide secondary assistance to local authorities and Highway Patrol as needed, doing anything from rescues, clearing the road for missions or going door-to-door giving assistance.
"Very rarely do we get a blizzard warning, so we want to manage this crisis, not have it manage us," said Maj. Gen. Stephen Danner of the Missouri National Guard.
The guard was activated Monday to give its citizen-soldiers enough time to safely reach their destinations before the brunt of the storm hits, Nixon said.
"I don't think Missouri drivers have seen a storm system quite like this until you've lived in the northern plains of the United States," Danner said. "Rarely do we have a blizzard warning ever issued in the state of Missouri, so I would encourage anybody that does not have to travel, please don't. I can't say that strongly enough."
Nixon said the snowstorm is not comparable to the ice storm that hit the southern part of the state a few years ago; it is worse. Although he does not expect as much ice coating trees and power lines in this storm, Nixon said the high winds make the storm more dangerous than before.
"Folks should batten down the hatches and hold on," Nixon warned.
Col. Ron Replogle, superintendent of Missouri State Highway Patrol, said in his 27 years of service, he has never seen a storm predicted to be this severe.
Replogle said the patrol expects to be able to help more stranded drivers than in previous storms because of the addition of more four-wheel drive vehicles. Roughly 800 road troopers are on duty for the duration of the storm.
"It's going to be dangerous, as the governor said, the storm itself is going to be followed up by very, very dangerous low temperatures, wind chills," Danner said. "And if you get stranded, that's going to be problem for you out there in those conditions."
Nixon encouraged drivers to call *55 to reach the highway patrol if there is an accident on the road or 211 for disaster and shelter information.
While the final plans for the storm preparations were being laid in Jefferson City, one lawmaker got into a weather-related car accident in Benton County on her way to the Capitol on Monday morning.
Freshman Rep. Wanda Brown, R-Lincoln, was driving on ice-covered Missouri 52 when she lost control of her vehicle. Brown was flown to University Hospital with serious injuries to her neck and back.
Brown's legislative assistant said she is in pain, but has full feeling and is not paralyzed in any way.
"From what I understand, she's in good spirits and talking and joking," he said.
It is still unclear how long Brown will stay in the hospital.