First snow of the season powders Columbia

Monday, December 9, 2013 | 4:39 p.m. CST
Columbia residents who park on main roads during the winter may soon need to find somewhere else to park. In an attempt to improve snow removal efforts during inclement winter weather, members of the Columbia City Council are considering a proposal to designate more streets as priority snow routes. If the forecast indicates 2 or more inches of snow, the city would enact emergency tow zones on the streets, allowing crews to clear snow more quickly.

COLUMBIA — Less than a quarter inch of snow dusted Columbia between 6 a.m. and noon Sunday, creating hazardous road conditions throughout Boone County.

The 0.2 inches of snow was a dry powder that accumulated in trace amounts, said Butch Dye, a hydrometeorological technician with the National Weather Service's St. Louis Forecasting Office.

But icy conditions, during and after the snow, dogged drivers from the back roads to the interstate.

There were 39 vehicle accidents in Boone County between midnight Saturday and Monday morning, according to the Columbia Police Department. It's difficult to determine which accidents happened because of the weather, but Missouri Highway Patrol Trooper Gary Gundy said a majority of Sunday's highway accidents were weather-related. 

Gundy said conditions were especially bad on the Interstate 70 bridge over the Missouri River near Rocheport. Three cars driving west over the bridge collided around 11 a.m., backing up traffic for about four miles, he said. By the time responders cleared the cars out of the westbound lane, a car driving in the eastbound lane had crashed, too.

"It was slick enough that it was hard to even stand on the bridge," Gundy said. "That's the nature of the beast."

The Columbia Public Works Department dispatched 19 pieces of equipment on Sunday to clear the streets it considers of high importance, spokesman Steve Sapp said. A crew of seven plow drivers worked overnight to prevent roads from freezing over again.

The city retains a full snow-removal arsenal — plows, road salt, brine and even beet juice — but surfaces that span open spaces, such as bridges or box culverts, can still grow cold enough to ice over.

If more snow had fallen, the city's new "snow route" ordinance would've required residents to move their cars from primary streets the city plows, including Scott Boulevard and parts of Broadway.

If cars are parked on those streets when two or more inches of snow is forecast, they might be towed to make way for plows. The Columbia City Council passed the ordinance Oct. 7.

Sapp said the city's parking enforcers have been passing along information about the ordinance to residents who live along the snow routes, and the city plans to launch a website this week that will distribute snow-removal information. Residents will also be able to sign up for email or text message notifications.

The National Weather Service forecasts precipitation for this weekend, but it remains to be seen whether it will fall as snow or rain. 

Supervising editor is Ted Hart.

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