Winter storm could challenge drivers, damage trees

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Meteorologists from National Weather Service office in Paducah, Ky., have issued a series of alerts for winter weather, according to meteorologist Alex Dodd.

"The first concern is the morning commute, how the roads are going to be, not so much about the freezing rain but the falling temperatures and leftover moisture on the roads from the rain that fell overnight, creating slick conditions.

"Tuesday morning could be even worse," he said.

Starting late Sunday night, people living in Southeast Missouri, Southern Illinois, western Kentucky and southwest Indiana can expect a mix of rain and snow that will cause "significant icing," Dodd said.

Scattered showers starting Sunday afternoon will change to freezing rain overnight as a strong arctic front sweeps through. The freezing rain may be mixed with sleet or snow. After a brief afternoon break Monday, more freezing rain and sleet is predicted, with temperatures sticking in the high 20s.

"It's a pretty complex situation," Dodd said, because the cold front is moving in so quickly, replacing temperatures in the low 60s and high 50s in a matter of minutes. "We've had reports of 15 to 20 degree drops in five minutes."

He said estimates for ice accumulation range from a thin layer to up to a quarter of an inch, "depending on the amount of sleet and snow that mixes in with the rain."

The warnings affect those in the following Missouri counties: Bollinger, Cape Girardeau, Scott, Stoddard, Butler, Mississippi, New Madrid, Wayne, Carter and Ripley. Illinois counties included are Alexander, Union, Gallatin and Pulaski.

Trained weather spotters have been asked to relay icing, wind speed data and damage reports to the National Weather Service or local authorities.

Meteorologist Dave Purdy said a wind advisory was eliminated from the forecast but to expect gusts of 10 to 15 miles an hour, "which is still pretty brisk," he said. "The main thing is, don't go out and drive around unless you have to."

Purdy said the weather is expected to warm up by the end of the week.

Ameren issued a statement Sunday urging customers to get ready for the possibility of storm-related power outages throughout the winter.

The company's senior vice president for energy delivery, Richard Mark, asked people to stay away from downed power lines and call Ameren or 911 if downed lines are spotted. He said anyone going outside in the dark during icy weather conditions to beware of the possibility of downed power lines being energized but not visible. Because of this, he urged people to stay away from brush, shrubs and downed trees that may hide downed lines.

Ameren's first priority during and after storms is to fix potentially life-threatening situations, such as downed power lines or hospitals without power. The company follows a restoration plan starting with the largest number of customers in the shortest possible time and moving down the list.


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