(The Center Square) – Forecasts of record-low wind chill temperatures and snow accumulations led Missouri Republican Gov. Mike Parson to issue an executive order activating the State Emergency Operations Plan and the Missouri National Guard.
“Please use common sense, be prepared and stay warm,” Parson said on Tuesday when announcing the executive order.
The National Weather Service (NWS) predicted bitterly cold temperatures on Thursday with strong winds resulting in dangerous wind chills. On Thursday, winds were predicted to be 20 to 30 miles per hour and to increase to 40 to 45 miles per hour after dark. Temperatures on Thursday and Friday night will be below zero, resulting in wind chills between 25- and 35-below zero.
Snow accumulations are predicted to be between two and four inches, making travel difficult. Falling and drifting snow may decrease visibility to one-quarter mile, according to the NWS. A winter storm warning was issued for 6 a.m. Thursday until midnight and a wind chill warning from 6 p.m. on Thursday until noon on Friday.
“Persons should delay all travel if possible,” according to the NWS in St. Louis. “If travel is absolutely necessary, drive with extreme caution and be prepared for sudden changes in visibility.”
Parson said wind chill might be more hazardous than the expected precipitation.
“Extreme cold and hazardous weather conditions are expected to bring varying amounts of snow accumulation, but even more concerning is the bitter cold that is forecasted to impact the entire state,” Parson said in a statement. “Missourians should be proactive in their preparations and so should state government, especially during this holiday travel season. We are signing this Order to ensure state resources are available and National Guard members are on standby for any needed response efforts across the state.”
The Missouri Department of Transportation warned the wind chills can be life threatening if motorists become stranded. Precipitation is predicted to begin with rain and change to snow, potentially creating flash freezing of roads.
“Cleanup, particularly during overnight hours, could take longer than usual after the snow ends because the chemicals used to treat the roads lose their effectiveness in bitterly cold temperatures,” Becky Allmeroth, MoDOT’s chief safety and operations officer, said in a statement. “Snowfall totals are manageable, but high winds and bitterly cold temperatures will make clearing the roads difficult. Motorists should take extra preparations before you take to the road.”
The city of St. Louis and St. Louis County encouraged residents to take precautions and announced plans to keep roads clear.
“We urge everyone to take this forecast seriously and plan ahead to keep your loved ones safe, especially as families prepare to travel for the holidays,” St. Louis City Emergency Management Commissioner Sarah Russell said in a statement. “For those who must travel, take extra precautions.”
The city has 450 miles of snow removal routes and the county has 3,200 miles of road systems.
“Once wintry precipitation begins, our crews will work around the clock for as long as necessary to keep our roads and streets passable,” Stephanie Leon Streeter, director of St. Louis County’s Department of Transportation and Public Works, said in a statement. “Residents can help plow operations by parking in driveways or off the street, especially in residential neighborhoods and cul-de-sacs, to help plow operators clear snow.”