COLUMBIA — A storm on the eve of winter threatens to break a string of consecutive days without measurable snow.
The storm system was forecast to bring rain to the area Wednesday afternoon and evening, changing to snow between 7 and 9 a.m. Thursday and continuing into midday.
Earlier predictions of snow flurries and snow showers for Columbia have changed to include the possibility of up to a half-inch of snow that could begin during the Thursday morning commute, Ben Miller of the National Weather Service in St. Louis said.
"It's enough to cause problems," Miller said. "It's an amount that makes people think it's not a big deal."
A snowfall of a tenth-inch or greater would end a stretch of consecutive days without measurable snowfall. Wednesday marks 310 days without snow — the fourth longest period since record-keeping began in 1890.
If there's no measurable snow Thursday, the string would run to 311 days — a tie with 2002 for third place.
While any snow could make for a tricky morning commute, winds on Thursday in excess of more than 40 mph could cause problems, particularly for larger vehicles and loose objects.
"They are supposed to be more of a nuisance than anything," Miller said of the high winds.
Northwest Missouri will be hardest hit by the storm.
The area north of a line from St. Joseph to Kirksville was projected to receive 3 to 8 inches of snow and was under a winter storm warning. It is also projected to have the strongest wind gusts causing blizzard-like conditions with snow drifting and blowing, according to the Weather Service in Kansas City.
Winter weather advisories were posted south of that area, from Kansas City to Macon County, where 1 to 3 inches of snow is possible.
Sunny skies with a high near 40 were forecast for Friday, when the winter solstice occurs at 5:12 a.m.
In advance of the storm, the Columbia Fire Department noted the historical increase in accidents during the first snow of the season and encouraged motorists to slow down and leave plenty of distance between vehicles.
The Missouri Department of Transportation has a map on its website with the latest travel conditions across Missouri.
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