COLUMBIA — Following Columbia’s first snowfall of the season, city officials are scrambling to respond to dozens of accidents and clear congested streets.
Fifty-two accidents had been reported in Columbia as of 6:10 p.m. Thursday, most as a result of the snowfall that began in the afternoon. Seven are still being investigated. No injuries have been reported.
Three rollovers were among the worst accidents, said Columbia police Sgt. Tim Moriarity. The accidents occurred at the 5900 block of Providence Road, on Scott Boulevard, and on Highway WW.
Moriarity said that within the 2 o’clock hour Thursday, 11 accidents were reported, and between 3 and 4 p.m., 23 were reported.
There is no area where accidents have been particularly high, but Moriarity warned that Forum Boulevard and South Providence Road ice over quickly.
“The street crews have a lot of roadway to cover, so some areas might not get attention right away,” Moriarity said. “People have to be really careful.”
Moriarity suggests that drivers carry cat liter or sand in their cars because either can be used to create traction if a car goes off the road. Drivers should also be properly dressed for the weather in case they become stuck inside their cars.
“If you’ve never driven with an anti-lock braking system before, familiarize yourself with it,” Moriarity said. “If you don’t have them and your car starts to slide, pump the brake with your foot.”
Columbia’s Public Works Department sent all city crews out this afternoon to clear snow from the streets. The crews are focusing on the first and second priority routes and critical areas, said department spokeswoman Jill Stedem. The snow removal map can be viewed at gocolumbiamo.com.
If the snowfall reaches four or more inches, the crews will attend to residential areas. The city has 17 snowplows that spread a salt and cinder mixture and five pickup trucks with plows to clear the streets.
Stedem said the city is asking for help from citizens to not park their cars on narrow streets, especially in Greektown and MU campus areas. The city also asks that residents keep the snow they shovel to the right side of their driveway, to ensure that plows will not block their driveway with snow.
The Public Works Department wants to have better communication with residents following the snowstorm last year that dumped 19 inches of snow on Columbia. Stedem said they will keep the city updated throughout the evening on road closures and accidents.
The Columbia Transit bus service changed to its emergency snow routes at 5 p.m. The departure times will be on the half hour from scheduled end-points and on the hour from the Wabash Station, according to the Columbia Transit Web site. To check the bus schedule visit gocolumbiamo.com/PublicWorks/Transportation/TransitEmergencyWeatherSchedule.php or call 874-7282.
Winter weather on the horizon
Butch Dye of the National Weather Service in St. Louis said Columbia is expected to receive 3 inches before the precipitation ends around midnight.
Boone County is under a winter weather advisory until midnight. The Weather Service posted a snow advisory for Moberly, where accumulations of 3 to 5 inches were expected.
Winter weather is expected to continue this weekend. Columbia’s forecast shows a mix of rain and freezing rain throughout Saturday and Sunday, Dye said.
The average first snowfall for Columbia is Nov. 28.
Anthony Lupo, an associate professor of atmospheric science at MU, said the region normally gets its first batch of snow right around this time of the year.
“You usually get your first inch right about now,” Lupo said.
But he expects the snow cover to melt away fairly quickly. As for the rest of the winter, Lupo expects it to be light. “(The winter) is supposed to be on the mild side and a little bit drier,” he said.
On average, the Columbia region usually gets about 20 inches of snow a year. Lupo also said Columbia residents can expect another round of winter weather for the weekend.
“We’re expecting another dose of this on Saturday ... a little bit of a mix of precipitation,” he said.
The National Weather Service is forecasting a 70 percent chance of precipitation in the form of freezing rain for the weekend.
— Missourian reporters Chelsea Goodwin, Kolleen Kawa, Rebekah Sasse and Jacob Stokes contributed to this report.