December 27, 2012

White(Out) Christmas

Irving Berlin wrote the song and Bing Crosby made it famous, reminiscing about an old fashioned holiday setting in White Christmas. The weather forecast heading into December 25th had everybody dreaming of just that.

Unfortunately as the snow finally arrived Thursday morning, it was accompanied by winds whipping at higher than 50 miles an hour turning it into a Whiteout Christmas.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for Scotland and Clark counties at 3:06 a.m. on December 20th.

The Scotland County School District cancelled classes Thursday morning at 6:30 a.m. as a steady rain continued to fall. The precipitation changed to snow around 7 a.m. and flakes continued to fall well past noon.

The winter storm warning was in effect until 6 p.m. and called for three to six inches of snowfall combined with winds between 40 to 55 mph.

Emergency service personnel were busy much of the day, as dozens of vehicles were left stranded by the icy road conditions combined with zero visibility and drifting snow.

"I don't think I have ever seen anything like this, wind-wise," said Scotland County Sheriff's Deputy Bryan Whitney as he explained the situation to dispatchers.

"Visibility is zero," Sheriff Wayne Winn commented. "You can't see nothing."

The sheriff's office and Memphis Police Department continued to brave the conditions to assist stranded motorists and provide traffic control at crash sites as the county's wrecker services worked non-stop to remove vehicles from the roadway.

Overall, law enforcement assisted 42 stranded motorists via various service calls on Thursday.

"Fortunately no one was hurt," said Whitney. "It looked like a demolition derby, with plenty of cars banged up, but it definitely could have been a lot worse."

Sheriff Winn also reminded motorists of the need to drive with headlights on to improve vehicle visibility.

The Scotland County Fire and Rescue and Scotland County Ambulance Service got into the act as well, responding to a roll-over crash on Route D at approximately 7:30 a.m.

The fire department also responded to a fire call at a residence on Clay Street following an electrical issue.

The Memphis City Light Department battled power outages and downed lines throughout the day. Power was out for portions of town throughout the morning hours on Thursday courtesy of the high winds.

Superintendent Dave Kittle said the wind was the main culprit.

The city electric service experienced intermittent outages Thursday morning. The major issue occurred when a main switch was lost, likely as result of surges caused by power lines crossed by the wind. That problem result in lost power, up to four hours, for some customers in the city.

The storm also kept the Missouri Department of Transportation busy as well as the Scotland County Road and Bridge Department.

"We have been running our roads before and throughout the storm," said Marissa Brown-Ellison, MoDOT's Customer Relations Director for the northeast district. "While this has been a challenging storm due to it being slow moving, a lot of snow, blizzard like conditions, extreme winds and low visibility, our snow crew has continued to operate, only stopping to assist law enforcement with accidents or dealing with our own truck issues."

The two entities teamed up when a MoDOT truck became stuck in the northern part of the county. With the nearest MoDOT road grader out of position, county crews responded to the scene and extricated the truck.

Ultimately the whiteout conditions forced MoDOT to officially close Highway 136 at around 3:30 p.m. The highway was closed between Lancaster (US 63) and Wayland (US 27) due to poor visibility with officials noting travel is not advised on this stretch of highway. MoDOT asked drivers to exit the highway at the next exit where they can find shelter as continued travel in the area is dangerous.

MoDOT crews are out in full force plowing snow off of major highways. Regardless, MoDOT says the winter weather makes travel hazardous and urges motorists stay put until the snow stops and roads are clear.

"The snow is slowly moving out of our district, and our crews will continue to work throughout the night," Brown stated.

Up-to-date road condition reports can be viewed at MoDOT's website at or customers can call 24/7 to reach live representatives to help them with road conditions.

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