October 30, 2014

Winter storm closes I-29 and causes other traffic hazards

The Missouri Department of Transportation says I-29 in northwest Missouri will remain closed through this afternoon.

Click on the link to go to MODOT’s traveler information map.

The interstate is closed from St. Joseph north to the Iowa border. Transportation Department Maintenance Engineer Tim Chojnacki says the conditions forced plow drivers to stop operations during the overnight.

“Snow has moved out. We’re still seeing some blowing of snow, but we are treating (the highway) now. I don’t have an exact time but I would think sometime this afternoon we could get that reopen.”

On I-29 and in other locations, highways have been closed this morning due to traffic accidents. Chojnacki says once a scene is cleared it can take a while for plows to get the road opened again.

Highway Patrol Captain Tim Hull says those accidents were likely related to the weather.

“They may not have started off weather-related … might have just been a vehicle sliding off the roadway or getting stuck on the roadway and then a crash happening behind them … but a lot of that’s due to being weather-related. There’s a lot of areas where tractor-trailer trucks have become stuck and therefore the roadway is blocked and that was the reason that they closed I-29 down earlier this morning.”

Some motorists became stranded along I-29 by the storm and Hull says troopers are out looking for them and offering assistance. The American Red Cross has also opened some warming centers for stranded motorists and those who have lost power.

“For instance in St. Joseph the Ramada in there at I-29, the First Christian Church in Mound City is the whole county one and the United Methodist Church in Atchison County there in Rockport is the shelter for those people who are stranded and need some place temporary to go to until the highway gets cleared off.”

Chojnacki says most of the roads in north Missouri are covered by some combination of snow, slush and perhaps ice, and the wind is exacerbating that.

“Once the precipitation stops you may still see covered roads for a while until the winds die down and we can be comfortable that those roads will stay mostly clear.”

Both the Transportation Department and the Patrol are urging motorists in northwest Missouri not to get out unless absolutely necessary.

Chojnacki says, “The travel is extremely dangerous. Not just the snow but the blowing wind is creating visibility problems and making it very hazardous to drive. If you do not have to go anywhere, stay home, let us get the roads opened up and things will be better this evening and tomorrow morning.

The Transportation Department is updating its traveler information map with closings and other information, and the Patrol offers its emergency phone numbers for people needing assistance, at (800) 525-5555 or *55 from a cellular phone.