A looming severe winter storm had road crews from the city of Cape Girardeau and the Missouri Department of Transportation prepared for the worst.
"We're keeping an eye on what may develop," Tim Gramling, head of the Cape Girardeau Public Works Department, said Monday. "Snow plows and salt spreaders are being readied for whatever may come our way."
The National Weather Service on Tuesday issued a blizzard warning, predicting six to 12 inches of snow across Southeast Missouri and most of Southern Illinois. Locally higher amounts were expected to occur in small bands of intense snowfall. The heaviest snow and strongest winds were expected between 10 p.m. Tuesday evening and 6 a.m. today. The blizzard warning is in effect until noon today.
The City of Cape Girardeau issued a statement Tuesday evening that urged drivers to stay home during expected blizzard conditions.
Road crews were on stand-by to clear roads as quickly as possible, said Nicholette Brennan, public information manager for the city.
Heavy wet snow and strong winds may bring down trees and power lines, according to the National Weather Service.
Gramling said if a major storm does develop, high-priority streets such as Broadway and Sprigg will be pre-treated with road salt. During and after the snowfall, those streets will be plowed. Crews then will tend to lower-priority streets.
"We want the roads in town with the heaviest traffic to be cleared first, then we'll turn our attention to the others," he said. "We'll have two crews out, each one working a 12-hour shift. If we do get serious snowfall, we'll fight it the best we can with as few inconveniences as possible."
Because of predicted blizzard conditions, MoDOT on Tuesday afternoon issued a "no-travel" advisory.
"The storm will most likely affect the southeast corner of Missouri and we anticipate sustained strong winds and heavy snowfall," said Beth Wright, MoDOT's state maintenance engineer. "This storm could create whiteout conditions, which will make travel hazardous and clearing roads extremely difficult."
Keeping the state's roads clear is a priority for Mark Shelton, district engineer for MoDOT's Southeast District.
"We're ready for the worst," he said. "We're checking forecasts and the anticipated snowfall, but above all we're prepared."
Shelton, who heard of the possibility of 10 to 15 inches of snowfall accumulating by this morning, said, "Nobody's sure of that, though. What I do know is we've got over 20,000 tons of salt on hand for the roads. We'll put that down first to get the jump on what actually happens, and then the snow plows will go into action if need be."
Shelton said MoDOT's efforts to combat the storm are being coordinated statewide.
"We've put into motion a plan to bring in crews from the northern part of the state if we need them."
Wright also is confident MoDOT will be able to handle a major snowstorm.
"Just like any other day, MoDOT crews will carefully monitor weather forecasts and road conditions throughout the Christmas holiday," she said. "We will pre-treat roadways when possible and we are prepared to send crews where they are needed to help fight the winter weather."
For more information, contact the MoDOT customer service center at 888-275-6636.
2675 N. Main St., Sikeston, MO
2007 Southern Expressway, Cape Girardeau, MO