After chipping out of the thick layer of ice that coated everything in sight, motorists and road crews were bracing Monday night for another winter storm that was expected to blanket the frozen landscape in several inches of snow.
At the county road headquarters on U.S. 63, Chip Estabrooks was gearing down Monday afternoon from hours of clearing and treating county roads.
“We’re tired,” said Estabrooks, manager of maintenance operations for the Boone County Public Works Department.
By evening, Estabrooks was catching up on sleep at home with plans to resume work in the early morning hours.
County road crews had 15 trucks, nine motor graders and nine contractors on duty Monday, clearing slush and ice. Crews concentrated their efforts on the paved portions of more than 800 miles of county roads.
The freezing rain, sleet and snow was enough to prompt Columbia Public Schools to use its first snow day of this winter on Monday, and a forecast for 2 to 3 inches of snow by this morning will have students and parents tuned in to local stations this morning to learn whether classes will resume.
School district employees began test driving the roads at 4:15 a.m. Monday.
Assistant Superintendent Chris Mallory said a freezing mist finally solidified the decision to close schools on Monday.
“What people sometimes forget is that we are such a big district,” Mallory said. “While it might be not so bad in some places, it could be much worse in others.”
School or no school, harsh conditions were forecast for today, with temperatures struggling to get out of the teens and gusty northwest winds making it feel even colder. Conditions were expected to improve on Wednesday, when the National Weather Service was calling for a high of 34 degrees under partly cloudy skies.
The Boone County Fire Protection District responded to 16 weather-related vehicle accidents between midnight on Sunday and Monday afternoon. The majority of the emergency responses were for vehicles that ran off the roadway.
Assistant Chief Ken Hines of the fire district said most of the accidents were minor. Five calls involved people trapped inside their vehicles, he said.
Columbia police Sgt. Timothy Moriarity said there were fewer accidents Monday because there were not as many people driving on the roads due to school closings. He said accidents were less severe because of the “recoil effect,” meaning that cars tend to bounce off other vehicles rather than slam into each other because ice offers less friction.
Despite the ice that coated trees and power lines, Linda Winn of Boone Electric Cooperative on Monday said there had been no outages.
Boone Electric customers can call 449-4161 to report outages or downed power lines. City utility customers can call the public works hot line at 875-2555.Missourian reporters Kindra Guetlich, Laura Hammargren, Nadia Vitari, Arthur Wedler and Graham Wood contributed to this report.