ST. LOUIS — Heavy snow combined with strong winds and bitter cold created a dangerous winter mix Sunday over much of Missouri, prompting churches and synagogues to cancel services and officials to warning people should be on the roads only if it's absolutely necessary.
Snow that began in parts of the state Saturday night picked up intensity after dawn Sunday, and several inches of snow were on the ground by midmorning.
The Missouri Department of Transportation reported that most major roadways were covered and clearing them was a challenge for two reasons: The wind was blowing cleared snow back onto the pavement, and it was so cold the salt used to melt ice and snow wasn't very effective.
MoDOT encouraged people to stay in unless absolutely necessary. The conditions were so bad they were a danger even to MoDOT workers driving the plows and trucks, spokeswoman Marie Elliott said.
"We're experiencing thunder-snow and white-out conditions," Elliott said. "If it gets to the point where it's no longer safe, we will consider suspending operations."
Temperatures were largely in the 20s in the morning but expected to drop throughout the day, National Weather Service meteorologist Butch Dye said. By the pre-dawn hours of Monday, temperatures across much of Missouri will be below zero, perhaps as low as minus 10 with a wind chill of minus 25.
"It's just a dangerous cold," Dye said.
The cold is especially concerning for the homeless. In St. Louis, volunteers were out searching for people living on the streets, under bridges and in tents, taking them to shelters. A special shelter set up by the city of St. Louis at a recreation center drew 124 homeless by Sunday morning, and will remain open through the cold snap, said William Siedhoff, director of the city's Human Services.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol reported several weather-related accidents, but there were no immediate reports of fatal wrecks.
Dye said the only good news was that brutal conditions should be short-lived. Snow was expected to end by Sunday evening, and while the cold will remain for a couple of days, it should give way to milder weather by mid-week, with much of the state seeing highs in the 30s by Wednesday.