February 3, 2011

Scotland County Bracing For Blizzard Predicted to Hit Most of State

Local residents were counting their blessings Tuesday morning and crossing their fingers at the same time. While the region missed much of the freezing rain and ice that plagued parts of the Midwest, Scotland County was bracing for what was is being predicted as one of the biggest snow storms in over a decade.

The National Weather Service was forecasting widespread blowing snow after noon on February 1st. Blustery conditions, with a north wind between 20 and 25 mph, and gusts as high as 40 mph were expected to complicate things for road crews trying to clear paths for travelers. The total daytime snow accumulation was expected to be around six inches.

The NWS in Quad Cities issued a blizzard warning based on a life-threatening winter storm system over the southern plains that was expected to move northeast into the Ohio River Valley Tuesday night.

The blizzard warning was in effect from noon Tuesday to noon Wednesday.

Snowfall totals from Tuesday morning to midday Wednesday were expected to range from 13 to 20 inches across southeast Iowa, far northeast Missouri and west central Illinois. The heaviest totals were predicted by the NWS along and southeast of a line from Memphis to Macomb, IL.

A strong circulation around this storm along with arctic high pressure over the northern plains will result in strong north winds of 25 to 35 mph with gusts over 45 mph possible. The strong winds and heavy snow will result in widespread blizzard conditions.

With wind chills expected to be below zero Tuesday night and as much as an additional 10 inches of snow predicted overnight, area residents spent Monday evening and Tuesday morning preparing for the worst.

"It was definitely a crazy day here yesterday," said J's Foods owner John Dodge of the storm induced shopping spree that hit his store Monday. "It has been much slower today as far as the number of shoppers but we were busy working with suppliers to try and restock the shelves if at all possible."

Dodge noted his store is at the mercy of the weather at times like this because of its rural location in conjunction with suppliers.

"We basically get three shots a week to get trucks in here when the weather is good, so at times like this it can get tough," Dodge said. "But if the weather gets as bad as they say it is, no one really needs to be out grocery shopping anyway."

The Missouri State Highway Patrol and Missouri Department of Transportation both agree.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol is discouraging travel during this week's hazardous weather conditions. Freezing rain followed by sleet, heavy snow, wind, and bitterly cold temperatures will make driving treacherous and dangerous should you break down or slide off the road and become stranded.

Troopers will be out in full force during these severe weather and driving conditions. All leave days have been canceled and troopers are working 12-hour shifts, some in four-wheel drive pickup trucks, to provide coverage. However, motorists need to be aware response times will be much longer than normal especially on secondary roads.

The Patrol is working with the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) to preposition manpower and resources throughout the state in preparation of the winter storm, which will enable the Patrol to provide the best possible service.

MoDOT's online Road Condition Map showed all roads across Missouri as snow covered midway through Tuesday morning.

Scotland County R-I School District dismissed at 1:00 p.m. on Monday afternoon and was closed Tuesday, with administrators bracing for the possibility of not being able to return to classes the rest of the week.

"Monday will count as a day of school, so it won't be a full week missed, but it's been a while since we've been faced with missing that much time all in a row because of the weather," Scotland County R-I Superintendent Dave Shalley said. "I've been told that back in 1978 we missed an entire week of school in January because of snow, and it seems like back when I was a student we missed a week in April because of a big storm."

Shalley noted the district let out early on Monday due to the slick conditions and basically called off classes Tuesday based on the forecast. That move obviously was the right one, as the snow began falling mid-morning.

Tuesday marked the fourth day of school missed due to weather. Shalley said makeup days will be stacked onto the end of the school year up to a maximum of 10 days. Legislative changes allow districts to only makeup one day for every two days lost beyond 10 days.

Unfortunately for SCR-I the NWS Quad Cities center is forecasting another chance of snow on Sunday and Monday with Arctic cold expected early next week.

On January 31st Missouri Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency in Missouri and activated the Missouri National Guard in preparation for a severe winter storm that is moving into the region. The Governor and state emergency officials began monitoring the storm over the weekend, when the Governor ordered that emergency generators be deployed to staging locations across the state.

Nixon signed Executive Order 11-03 to declare a state of emergency in Missouri. The executive order activates the Missouri State Emergency Operations Plan, which allows state agencies to assist local jurisdictions with their emergency preparation and response. The Governor also signed Executive Order 11-04, which activates the Missouri National Guard in response to the storm. Under the Governor's orders, Citizen-Soldiers from the Guard will be deployed to support local emergency agencies.

"Most of Missouri is expected to be affected by this severe winter storm, which is predicted to cause treacherous road conditions and possibly widespread power outages," Gov. Nixon said. "My chief concern is the safety of Missourians, and these orders make state agency resources and the Citizen-Soldiers of the Missouri National Guard available to help communities respond. As state emergency officials continued to track the storm over the weekend, we worked closely with local agencies and faith and community groups to ensure that Missouri is as prepared as possible."

Before signing these orders, Gov. Nixon received an updated briefing from his emergency management team, including senior officials from the Missouri Department of Public Safety, Missouri National Guard, Missouri State Highway Patrol and State Emergency Management Agency to assess the current weather situation and review the latest forecasts.

Under Gov. Nixon's orders, the State Emergency Operations Center is now operating 24 hours a day. Liaison officers from the National Guard will begin working with county and local officials to determine where the Guard's help is needed.

In addition to the National Guard, state agencies that can be activated for duty under the order include: Missouri Department of Public Safety, State Emergency Management Agency, Missouri State Highway Patrol, Division of Fire Safety, Department of Agriculture, Department of Conservation, Department of Corrections, Department of Health and Senior Services, Department of Mental Health, Department of Natural Resources, Department of Social Services, Department of Transportation and the Office of Administration.

Non-government and volunteers working with the State Emergency Operations Center include the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, AmeriCorps, and the Governor's Faith-Based and Community Service Partnership for Disaster Recovery.

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