Winter snowstorm shuts down Columbia

Thursday, February 21, 2013 | 7:53 p.m. CST; updated 8:12 a.m. CST, Friday, February 22, 2013
A winter storm brought more than 9 inches of snow to Columbia on Thursday.

COLUMBIA — A vast snowstorm swept across mid-Missouri on Thursday, shutting down businesses, major roadways and schools, including MU.

By about 4 p.m., 11 inches of snow had accumulated downtown, and 9.7 inches were reported at Columbia Regional Airport at 7 p.m., according to the National Weather Service. 

Fred Glass, a meteorologist with the service in St. Louis, said the totals were among the highest in central to eastern Missouri. 

Early in the morning, Columbia’s roads were clear enough for many residents to make it to work. Heavy snow started to fall about 8 a.m., and loud thunder could be heard throughout the morning. 

Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency just before 10 a.m.

Many local businesses, including The Blue Note, shut down and sent their employees home for the day.

By noon, Columbia College, Stephens College, William Woods University in Fulton, and MU had all canceled classes. Columbia Public Schools canceled Thursday and Friday classes. 

MU canceled classes at 11:58 a.m., and eventually closed the campus for the first time since the "Snowpocalypse" storm of February 2011. It was only the second full campus closure since 1949.

MU announced late Thursday evening that the campus would remain closed on Friday..

Students, faculty and employees took to snow-covered roads during the afternoon, slowing traffic to a standstill on Providence Road, College Avenue, Broadway and Stadium Boulevard, among other places. 

During the afternoon, ad hoc crews of Columbia residents could be seen all over downtown helping neighbors push stalled cars. Some wielded snow shovels. Many used gloves and boots to clear snow away from tires. 

Fire and ambulance crews responded to 11 injury accidents between 8 a.m. and 6:45 p.m. None of the accidents involved serious injuries, and no transports to medical facilities were reported, Boone County Fire Protection District shift supervisor Chuck Mastalski said. 

Interstate 70 was partially or completely closed for a series of weather-related accidents since about 11:30 a.m. Thursday.

All four lanes of the interstate between U.S. 63 and the Lake of the Woods exit were closed from 3 p.m. until 6:05 p.m., when the westbound lane opened. The eastbound lane was still closed at that time. 

Two tractor-trailers had stalled in the area, which also stopped traffic on U.S. 63 near the interstate, said Travis Koestner, assistant district engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation's central district. 

“It all centers around that area,” Koestner said.

The department also closed a portion of Route WW near the border between Boone and Callaway counties after a tractor-trailer turned sideways. Another semitrailer was blocking Route Z near St. Charles Road at 7 p.m., according to an advisory from Columbia-Boone County Joint Communications. 

Crews continued to plow major roads throughout the evening, though sleet and freezing rain made work difficult, according to a statement from the Public Works Department.

Crews hope to begin plowing smaller residential streets by late Friday afternoon, the statement said. 

Trash collection stopped at 1:30 p.m., but will continue Friday and Saturday, according to the statement.

Columbia was one of many communities that dealt with the storm. Cold air moving up from the south led to heavy snowfall across the Midwest and Northeast.

Winter storm warnings extended in a rectangle that stretched from eastern Colorado through southern Illinois, and from southern Missouri to northern Iowa.

Missourian reporters Caitlin Holland and Ciera Velarde contributed to this article.

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