Cold lingers as thousands keep shoveling

Warmer temperatures on Tuesday could help melt the 15.3 inches of snow.
Sunday, December 3, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 4:58 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 3, 2008

Ondre and Tyler Hayes dug into the knee-deep snow drifts covering the walkway outside St. Paul AME Church on the corner of Fifth Street and Park Avenue on Saturday afternoon.

Tyler, 7, playfully flung chunks of hardened snow aside with the toy rake he was using as a makeshift shovel. Ondre, 16, pulled off his coat as he warmed up in the sun, heaving shovel loads of two-day-old snow off the sidewalk.

“We started digging an hour ago,” Tyler said. “It’s hard though.”

The two cleared the way to ensure that worshippers braving the cold and record snow this morning could get to church.

The boys joined many other Columbians who began to dig out this weekend from under the 15.3 inches of snow that fell on the city and much of the Midwest late Thursday and early Friday.

The National Weather Service said the 24-hour snowfall was the second highest total in the city’s history. The record was the 19.7 inches that fell on Jan. 18 and 19, 1995.

The National Weather Service’s 5-day forecast for the coming week predicted sunny days and clear nights, but the temperature would not begin to warm above freezing until Tuesday.

Tony Lupo, an associate professor of atmospheric science at MU, said the forecasted below-average temperatures could cause the snow to remain for two weeks. It’s even possible that the current ground cover could receive an additional dusting.

“We’ll probably get some more precipitation,” Lupo said, “but it will be very light.”

The storm led to a number of closures, including Columbia’s public schools, Columbia Regional Airport and major roadways including Interstate 70.

With many roads still treacherous, some local churches have canceled services today.

Some non-essential city services, such as trash collection, were canceled Friday. Regular trash collection was scheduled to resume Monday.

MU classes were canceled Friday. Classes were canceled for one day during the record snow of 1995, and in 1998, the start of the winter semester was delayed one day because of an ice storm in the area.

Across the state, the storm wreaked havoc on travel and utility services.

One fatal accident was attributed to the storm in Boone County. Carlos Ramirez-Barrera, 28, a Mexican citizen, was killed Thursday night when he turned his 1997 Dodge van into the blade of an oncoming Boone County snowplow at Old Millers Road and U.S. 63.

Ramirez-Barrera’s two passengers, Carlos Martinez, 30, of El Salvador, and Juan A. Vasquez-Losada, 19, of Mexico, were taken to University Hospital, where they were both listed in fair condition Saturday. The driver of the snowplow, a Boone County Public Works employee, was not injured.

In Columbia, city snowplow drivers worked throughout the weekend in 12-hour shifts to clear roads. Despite warnings from Columbia and Boone County emergency managers to stay off roads Friday and Saturday, many drivers ventured out on the streets. Emergency managers said many drivers who did venture out were travelling too fast for conditions.

While Columbia Water & Light did not report any local power outages, more than 280,000 AmerenUE electric customers in the state, mostly in the St. Louis area, were without power Saturday.

Governor Matt Blunt declared a state of emergency Friday that enacted the Missouri State Emergency Operations Plan. It directs state agencies, including the Transportation Department and the highway patrol, to provide support in affected areas as needed. The governor has also called up the National Guard to assist local governments. Much of the aid has been directed toward the St. Louis area.

Local emergency managers on Friday called on volunteers with four-wheel drive vehicles to assist in delivering food and medicine to homebound residents. Interested residents should call the Joint Communications Center at 874-7470.

Officials also suggested that residents check in periodically on elderly or homebound neighbors to make sure that are all right during the snow emergency.

Missourian reporters Brent Adams and Kate LaRue contributed to this report.

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