The trucks have been double checked and the staff is on call. But street department Superintendent Jim McKinnon does not expect that the incoming ice storm will cause many problems in Columbia.
“I think we are going to dodge a bullet,” McKinnon said Tuesday afternoon.
The National Weather Service issued a freezing rain advisory for Columbia until 6 p.m. today. A major ice storm is expected to affect northern and west-central Missouri and west-central Illinois. As of Tuesday afternoon, Jim Sieveking, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in St. Louis, expected the rain in Columbia to turn to freezing rain by 3 a.m. today.
The weather service was expecting a changeover to rain about mid-morning before another round of freezing precipitation later this afternoon.
“As temperatures cool off” this evening “there will be a change over to sleet and then snow, but little snow accumulation is expected,” Sieveking said.
Sieveking expects ice accumulation of less than a quarter of an inch in the Columbia metro area and as much as an inch of ice north and west of Columbia by this evening.
Pat Slattery of the National Weather Service office in Kansas City said the expected ice storm could be the biggest to hit the Kansas City area since January 2002, when a storm that swept across Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri knocked out power to about a million homes, caused more than $50 million in damage and led to federal disaster declarations in 123 counties.
As of late Tuesday evening, about 2,000 homes were without power in Kansas City, and more than 60,000 were without power across Kansas.
Many flights arriving and departing from Kansas City International Airport were canceled Tuesday night, and some carriers also canceled flights for Wednesday morning, spokesman Joe McBride said. Delays were expected for those Wednesday flights that weren’t canceled, McBride said.
There was also flash flooding in West Plains, in south-central Missouri.
In Columbia, Sieveking said, “As soon as the temperature drops below freezing then it will start sticking on things, especially trees and power lines. If you get enough ice accumulation, especially north and west of Columbia, you will start seeing some trees and power lines start to come down.”
Columbia Water and Light spokeswoman Connie Kacprowicz said the city would have its normal on-call crew throughout today.
City technicians will also be ready to dispatch to other parts of Missouri to help crews restore power.
“Columbia Water and Light has a mutual aid agreement with Missouri municipal utilities,” Kacprowicz said. “If there is something that a utility can’t handle, either us, or another municipal utility within the state of Missouri, they can call on other utilities to bring line workers in to help repair electric lines.”
The typical problem with ice and heavy snows is it causes tree limbs to bend under the weight and they sometimes pull down power lines. “It’s impossible to predict what kind of damage an ice storm will do until it actually happens,” Kacprowicz said.
In case Columbia does get some snow or ice, McKinnon is ready to dispatch the city’s 20 trucks to clear the roads.
“In the central business district area we use sodium chloride (salt). On hills, curves and intersections we use a mix of cinders and salt,” McKinnon said.
The worst part of this ice storm was expected to hit northern Missouri.
“Basically you take a line from Kansas City to Centralia to Mount Sterling, Ill. Anywhere north of there, travel really isn’t recommended,” Sieveking said.
Warmer weather is expected for Columbia as the week progresses with the highs reaching into the ’50s by the weekend.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.