Ice storms knock out power to more than 100,000

Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Ice covered everything Sunday in Jefferson City, Mo., as a steady rain and drizzle froze to the trees, power lines and every other exposed surface. (Julie Smith ~ News-Tribune)

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- More than 100,000 customers were without power in freezing temperatures Monday after an ice storm crossed central and southern Missouri, causing at least two deaths as the state braced for another wave of freezing rain.

The National Weather Service in St. Louis issued an ice storm warning for central Missouri from Monday evening through early Wednesday, saying residents should prepare for up to half an inch of ice, additional power outages and heavy damage to trees.

Two weather-related deaths were reported. A 92-year-old man was killed when a limb hit him in the head Monday as he tried to cut down an ice-damaged tree outside his home near Carl Junction, north of Joplin, Jasper County Coroner Jerry Neil said. The man's name was being withheld pending notification of family.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol said a motorist was killed Sunday evening after he got out of his vehicle to check on a previous accident on U.S. 63 north of Jefferson City and was struck by another vehicle that skidded on an ice-covered bridge. The patrol on Monday identified the deceased man as Neilson Rudd, 22, of the St. Louis suburb of Wildwood.

Gov. Matt Blunt, who declared a state of emergency Sunday, announced a toll-free hot line to help Missourians find emergency shelter or warming centers and to collect donations of emergency supplies.

Tree trimmers from Shade Tree Service Company try to make way for the utility company to get power hooked up on Monday, Dec. 10, 2007, in Jefferson City, MO. Much of mid-Missouri continues to try and get mobile after a weekend ice storm. Area residents are busy picking up broken branches and in some instances, entire trees were that were uprooted. The majority of the damage was caused by large broken branches falling onto houses and automobiles in addition to power lines. (AP Photo/News Tribune,Julie Smith)

"We are only just beginning to see the devastation from this series of storms, and our state emergency responders are continuing to take action to protect Missourians," Blunt said in a statement as he visited storm-stricken towns including Webb City, Lamar and Eldon.

Blunt's emergency decree activated state emergency operations and alerted the Missouri National Guard to aid communities affected by a storm. No communities had called for help as of midday Monday.

Tree limbs and power lines were downed by ice up to an inch thick in areas from around Joplin through central Missouri to west of St. Louis.

"There are trees and power lines down all over the county," said Rich Nordell from the combined Jasper County and Joplin emergency management office.

Daytime temperatures fluctuated on either side of the freezing mark, making it hard to predict where roads and bridges might be icy.

Smaller roads and side streets were most at risk, while MoDOT crews worked to keep major highways clear with melting chemicals and gravel.

The widespread power outages in mid-Missouri also affected the highway patrol headquarters, which momentarily lost all power Monday when a backup generator went down.

Patrol spokesman Capt. Tim Hull said thawing and refreezing ice on overpasses and curves posed the greatest hazard Monday.

Although most roads were clear across Missouri, "things could go down hill real quickly as far as those road conditions go," Hull said. "The temperature is hovering right there around that freezing point, which makes it really treacherous."

The brunt of Monday's power outages was felt in southwest and central Missouri, according to Susie Stonner, spokeswoman for the State Emergency Management Center.

Empire District Electric in southwest Missouri said 46,600 customers were without power, including 39,000 in the Joplin area and nearby Webb City.

St. Louis-based AmerenUE reported 30,000 without power, including 20,000 in the Jefferson city and Eldon areas.

Electric co-ops reported another 27,000 customers without power scattered around the state.

Stonner said the worst of the storm hit a swath from Barton County, on the Kansas border north of Joplin, along U.S. 54 northeast through the Lake of the Ozarks region and Eldon to the area around Jefferson City.


Associated Press writer David Lieb in Jefferson City contributed to this report.

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