May 30, 2015

Missouri’s heavy rains wash bacteria into recreational waterways

Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of summer and many people are ready to go swimming, but health officials warn heavy rains may wash harmful bacteria into swimmers favorite recreational waterways.

The Little Sac River Bridge

The Little Sac River Bridge

The Springfield-Green County Health Department and the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks have started monitoring popular swimming spots in Greene County for the presence of E. coli.  The E. coli count is an indication of fecal water contamination, which can make swimmers sick.

Kathryn Wall is the Public Health Information Administrator for the Springfield-Green County Health Department.

“We found some areas that were a little bit higher than we like, the highest was the Little Sac River, and the E. coli levels there were just a little too high for our comfort level,” said Wall.  “We’re not telling people don’t go swim or anything like that, just be more aware of what you’re getting into.”

Wall said E. coli levels are often high during periods of storm water runoff.

“Don’t go swimming after really heavy rains, that’s going to tend to really wash things out into those creeks, if the water is murky, generally it’s a place to avoid,” said Wall.  “E. coli is most common in fecal material and so in the Ozarks we do have some agriculture, so some of that is going to naturally wash away into the water streams, so usually we just kind of tell people to wait it out.”

Wall said there is a certain amount of danger when E. coli levels are high.

“Too high of concentrations can make people sick and in some cases can be fatal, especially for people very young, very old, or immune compromised for one reason or another,” said Wall.

Wall said swimmers should avoid swallowing water and swimming when sick.  Wall said it’s important to thoroughly wash hands and shower after swimming.

“There a lot of people who are at the creek all day and they take a lunch and might not think about it, they get out of the water, and go straight to their lunch, and don’t think about that bacteria that’s on their hands,” said Wall.

The most recent test results for the Springfield area can be found on the Springfield-Greene County Health Department’s website.

NWS: severe storms, possible tornadoes threaten Missouri

Severe weather is being predicted to sweep through Missouri this afternoon and evening, and could bring with it tornadoes as well as damaging winds and large hail.

This weather graphic from the National Weather Service illustrates where the elevated risk for severe weather is being predicted for today and tomorrow.

This weather graphic from the National Weather Service illustrates where the elevated risk for severe weather is being predicted for today and tomorrow.

One round of storms has already affected much of the state, but National Weather Service Meteorologist Chris Gitro says Missourians shouldn’t let their guard down yet.

“We could have several different shots of moderate to severe thunderstorms during the overnight period tonight,” Gitro told Missourinet.

Gitro says the storms tonight are anticipated to be more severe than those that have already developed today.

“In addition to the hail threat that we expect later on this afternoon into this evening, we’re also concerned about the possibility of some tornadoes developing across the area as well as some very strong, damaging wind gusts,” Gitro said. “We have a stationary boundary that’s pretty much stalled over the area, we’ve got very strong winds aloft, and any time that we have a stalled frontal boundary across the area we’re concerned that we could have some developing tornadoes along that boundary because the winds in those areas where the frontal boundary is tend to blow out of a different direction so we get a lot of change with height as the thunderstorms start to move over the area with respect to the winds, and that’s where we can see tornadoes develop in the vicinity of a stalled frontal boundary.”

Gitro says while it is impossible to predict with total accuracy, he anticipates that any tornadic activity will consist of isolated twisters rather than an outbreak.

“One of the limiting factors might be just the level of instability north of the warm front. Looks like we’re going to be able to become pretty unstable south of the front and it’s just going to be whether or not we’re going to be able to see any of the low-level mesocyclone start to develop within the thunderstorm to produce a tornado,” said Gitro.

“The areas that are most under the gun are going to be south of the Missouri River between Interstate 44 and the Interstate 70 corridor,” said Gitro. “Any activity that does develop will likely spread east into the St. Louis area as well during the overnight hours.”

Storms are predicted to enter the region around 4 to 5 p.m. and spread into more of the state through the evening and night.

Gitro says there is also concern about flooding, particularly for areas that have seen significant rain in the past few days. More severe weather could be triggered by a cold front tomorrow, but the greatest predicted threat for severe weather does shift farther east tomorrow.

He reminds Missourians that whether the Weather Service has issued a tornado warning or a severe thunderstorm warning for an area, either one means it wants individuals to take cover.

“Large hail, very strong winds; 60, 70 mile per hour winds, could do just as much damage or hurt somebody just as bad as a tornado can,” said Gitro.

For updated information tune in to these Missourinet affiliates, and for National Weather Service information for your area, visit these NWS pages.

In northwest and western Missouri:  Kansas City (Pleasant Hill)

In northeast and eastern Missouri:  St. Louis

In southwest Missouri:  Springfield

In southeast Missouri:  Paducah, KY

Scotland and Clark counties:  Davenport, IA

For Missouri highway conditions find a link to the Transportation Department’s Traveler Information Map on our homepage (also available as a smart phone app).

Weather Service: ‘slight risk’ of severe weather in Missouri

The National Weather Service is warning that there is a slight risk for severe thunderstorms in much of Missouri today.

This weather graphic from the National Weather Service illustrates the areas its Storm Prediction Center says are at a slight risk for severe weather today and tomorrow, and what the primary threats are.

This weather graphic from the National Weather Service illustrates the areas its Storm Prediction Center says are at a slight risk for severe weather today and tomorrow, and what the primary threats are.

The weather service predicts rain and thunderstorms this morning will break up by the afternoon, but another round is expected to develop around 5 or 6 this evening in western Missouri and sweep northeast according to lead forecaster at St. Louis, Jim Sieveking.

“That’s when we could expect the potential for some severe thunderstorms with large hail, some damaging winds, and we can’t rule out maybe an isolated tornado,” Sieveking told Missourinet.

Areas said to be at a slight risk this evening include the Kansas City and St. Louis regions and southwest and south-central Missouri.

The first round of severe storms in a season often catches some people off guard, so Sieveking is reminding Missourians to pay attention.

“This afternoon into this evening just be aware of if there are any watches that are issued, severe thunderstorm or tornado watches that are issued, and then if a warning is issued for your area then take action,” said Sieveking. “Go to the lowest floor of your building. Even if it’s severe thunderstorm, large hail and damaging winds can blow out windows and so forth so I always encourage everybody to just go downstairs until the storm passes.”

Another slight risk of severe weather is predicted for tomorrow but is more limited to southern Missouri.

Sieveking says southern Missouri could also be at risk for flooding tomorrow.

“That front kind of lights up tomorrow and it looks like the thunderstorms might train across southeast Missouri so we could get some heavy rainfall down there. Looks like one to two inches of rain could happen,” said Sieveking. “Those areas saw a lot of snow and a lot of precipitation over the last couple of weeks.”

For National Weather Service information for your area, visit these NWS pages:

In northwest and western Missouri:  Kansas City (Pleasant Hill)

In northeast and eastern Missouri:  St. Louis

In southwest Missouri:  Springfield

In southeast Missouri:  Paducah, KY

Scotland and Clark counties:  Davenport, IA

NWS: up to 6″ of snow possible in parts of Missouri this weekend

A large swath of Missouri could see up to half-a-foot of snow this weekend based on projections from the National Weather Service.

This weather graphic from the National Weather Service includes predicted total snowfall by Sunday night.

This weather graphic from the National Weather Service includes predicted total snowfall by Sunday night.

Meteorologist Spencer Mell told Missourinet the storm that could bring that snow is pushing our way from the Pacific Northwest this morning and will cross the western U.S. through today and tomorrow.

“Looks like we’ll probably start to see snow enter into western Missouri as we get into the very late morning hours tomorrow, and then we’ll see that continue through the afternoon on Saturday overspreading most of the area between Interstate 44 and Interstate 70 through most of the afternoon, and then continuing through Saturday night when we’ll probably see the bulk of the snowfall fall across the area,” said Mell. “Then even perhaps a second shot as we get into the day on Sunday.”

The heaviest snow is expected to fall in an area from roughly St. Joseph to Kirksville in northern Missouri, to as far south as a Nevada to St. Louis line.

Snow is expected to begin accumulating by Saturday night.

“We’ll see snow totals by Saturday evening pretty much around the inch to two-inch range. By the time we get through Saturday night we’ll probably look at snowfall totals already reaching that three to five-inch range,” Mell said. “By the time we add up all our snowfall totals by Sunday evening we’re probably looking at a four to six total snowfall range for this whole event.”

Mell says Missourians should pay attention to the weather this weekend and be prepared to alter travel plans, and those that do have to get out should allow extra time to do so.

NWS warns Missouri: freezing temps, slick conditions spreading south

A storm overnight has left a swath of roads in the northern half of the state partly to mostly covered and slick according to the Department of Transportation.

This weather graphic from the National Weather Service estimates the location of the "freezing line" through 9am in southwest Missouri.

This weather graphic from the National Weather Service estimates the location of the “freezing line” through 9am in southwest Missouri.

As the “freeze line” continues to push farther south this morning, National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Sieveking says roads in more areas of the state could start to become slick where they aren’t already.

“We’ve got a lot of moisture that’s still on the roads and the temperatures are going to be falling pretty drastically this morning,” Sieveking told Missourinet. “In Columbia right now it’s 32 degrees but you don’t have to far up in Kirksville and it’s already down to 17. That cold air is filtering south and as that happens some of the roads that are untreated or don’t have any salt on them could freeze up and cause some hazardous conditions.”

Elevated surfaces such as bridges are typically the first to freeze.

As temperatures fall in parts of the state where roads haven’t already been slick today, Sieveking says some drivers could be caught by surprise.

“It might look just wet or maybe even experience that it’s just wet but then you hit an icy spot and it could be some hazardous driving conditions there,” he said. “We’re just trying to keep people alert of the changing conditions as the temperature plummets into the 20s and the teens this afternoon.”

The Highway Patrol is so far attributing about a dozen accidents last evening and overnight to slick road conditions.

See Missouri road conditions with the Transportation Department’s Traveler Information Map, which is also available as an app on Apple or Android.