Heavy snow has hit Missouri, with strong winds creating blizzard conditions through a swath from southwest Missouri, through the central part of the state, heading to northeast Missouri.
The state is getting blanketed by snow, but some areas are getting hit hard. Snow is falling so heavily and the wind is blowing so hard in central Missouri that the Missouri Department of Transportation has closed I-70 in Boone, Cooper and Callaway Counties. MoDOT says it is unknown how long the middle section of the interstate will be closed. MoDOT spokesman Sally Oxenhandler says the volume of snow and whiteout conditions on I-70 forced the decision to remove snowplow crews from the interstate for a short time. Crews went back to work in the area at mid-afternoon but the interstate remained closed in those three counties.
MoDOT also is advising Missouri motorists that Oklahoma has closed the I-44 West/Oklahoma Will Rogers Turnpike due to the winter weather conditions. Though both MoDOT and the State Highway Patrol advise against driving today, MoDOT says any motorists traveling I-44 need to exit at Springfield, Mt. Vernon and Joplin.
Road conditions are available at this MoDOT Web site.
The National Weather Service reports visibility in the Columbia-Jefferson City area of only a quarter of a mile, an eighth of a mile in Kansas City and about three-quarters of a mile in St. Louis.
Governor Nixon paid a visit to the State Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Jefferson City this morning to get an update on conditions and how the state is responding. The governor has issued two executive orders. One makes state resources available to help local governments respond to the storm. The other activates the National Guard to respond. Nearly all the near 800 State Highway Patrol troopers are on duty. The Guard has 600 members ready to assist. Generators have been stationed to Farmington, Eureka, Jefferson City, Festus and Pierce City, ready to be deployed where needed.
One traffic fatality has been reported. A 55-year-old woman from Licking has been killed in a head-on collision with a State Highway Patrol car. The patrol reports that Karen Chambers lost control of her car on snow and ice covered US 63 early this morning, 12 miles south of Rolla. Her car crossed the centerline and crashed into the patrol car. Trooper George Arnold suffered moderate injuries.
AUDIO: Bob Priddy interviews Gov. Nixon at SEMA HQ [2 min MP3]
AUDIO: Bob Priddy interviews MoDOT’s Sally Oxenhandler [4 min MP3]