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Cold snap worst in 24 years in Missouri

Monday, January 6, 2014 | 12:54 p.m. CST

ST. LOUIS — The snow has moved on but dangerous cold settled across Missouri on Monday amid warnings that even a few minutes of exposure for people and pets could be deadly.

Winds gusting to 20 mph and more only made matters worse. By 9 a.m. the temperature in St. Louis had plummeted to minus 8 degrees, the coldest reading in St. Louis since February 1996, National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Truett said. Blustery winds made it worse — wind chill readings in Hannibal, Troy and Wentzville dipped to 30 degrees below zero.

The cold was so dangerous that search teams were out looking for homeless people and taking them to shelters. So many homeless people arrived at a city-operated shelter in St. Louis that 80 had to be bused to other shelters, St. Louis city spokeswoman Heather Wegman said.

Butch Dye, a National Weather Service meteorologist, urged anyone who had to go outside to cover all exposed areas.

"We are talking 10 to 15 minutes before frostbite exposure," he said. "If you get stuck outside in a broken down car and you're not properly dressed, it could be a disaster."

St. Louis city leaders warned that any pets found outside would be confiscated and the owners could face animal abuse charges.

The utility Ameren Missouri was scrambling to restore power to about 1,400 customers, mostly south of St. Louis.

The bitter cold came a day after heavy snow blanketed much of Missouri. The St. Louis region got the worst of it — officially 10.8 inches in the city but up to 15 inches in the suburbs. Road conditions across the state were improved from Sunday but still treacherous, with several highways and interstates covered. Clearing roads was a challenge because it was so cold that salt was less effective, and the wind was whipping the fine, powdery snow back onto the cleared pavement.

The combination of snow and cold prompted thousands of school closings across Missouri. U.S. District Court was shut down in St. Louis. Many government operations in the St. Louis area also did not open.

Fortunately, Missourians were largely heeding warnings to stay off the roads. The Missouri State Highway Patrol reported no fatal accidents.

Travel by air was a challenge, too. Lambert Airport in St. Louis reported around 60 canceled flights, many of them bound for or arriving from the East Coast, which was also socked by winter weather in recent days. Kansas City International had 26 cancellations by midmorning.

A gradual warm-up is expected to begin Tuesday, though more snow is expected Wednesday.

"It certainly doesn't look like anything like yesterday, but we could get an inch or two of new snow," Truett said.

A break in the weather should arrive after that. Truett said that by the weekend, highs should reach into the 40s under sunny skies.

 


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