Forecaster: "Critical time" for ice storm is through midnight

Monday, February 11, 2008

The ice storm shutting down businesses, schools and travel in Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois will continue unabated through at least midnight, a National Weather Service forecaster said this afternoon.

With some locations already reporting up to a half-inch of ice accumulation and thunder rumbling through Cape Girardeau County and Union County, Ill., the likelihood of relief in the form of higher temperatures is remote, said Kevin Smith of the National Weather Service office in Paducah, Ky.

By 2 p.m., the ice was falling as granular sleet in downtown Cape Girardeau, creating a layer of white over the coating of freezing rain that slickened streets, trees and power lines in the morning hours.

"The biggest concern here is you are going to be looking at a lot of ice accumulation," Smith said. "And from Greenville, Mo., to Jackson northward, some of that may change to snow as a predominant feature."

With radar indicating significant precipitation extending to Springfield, Mo. and to the west, there should be little let up, Smith said. "The critical time is going to be today and especially through midnight."

The forecast models show a potential for a brief period when temperatures could rise above freezing in the early morning hours Tuesday, Smith said, but it shouldn't be a long enough time to cause any significant melting. And there should be additional ice and snow, albeit light, in the morning hours Tuesday through about noon, Smith said.

The area is experiencing an ice storm because there is a warm layer of moist air from the western Gulf of Mexico being pumped into the atmosphere about 5,000 feet, Smith said. Snow falling from above through that layer is melting, then refreezing as it reaches the ground.

The thunder is evidence of unstable air aloft and where thunder occurs, and Smith said the result will be a heavy burst of ice or snow.

Temperatures through the region were hovering in the upper teens to mid 20s. At 2 p.m., the temperature at Cape Girardeau Regional Airport was 23, and Smith said that should be near the high for the daylight hours.

For updates, check back at www.semissourian.com or read Tuesday's Southeast Missourian.

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