Freezing rain is expected to reach the metro-east by Friday as part of a winter storm that will be moving into southern parts of Missouri and Illinois, according to a St. Louis meteorologist.
Richie Meile, the superintendent of the St. Clair County Highway Department, said his crews plan to start salting roads at 4 a.m. Friday, about three hours before the freezing rain is expected to begin falling in the area.
“We want to get ahead of the ice and get (roads) treated and let it work a bit,” Meile said.
The forecast of a quarter-inch of ice is like a foot of snow, Meile said. He added temperatures staying around the freezing point is good for the salt to work.
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“If it’s really cold, it doesn’t do any good,” Meile said.
After an initial seven-hour shift, workers in the St. Clair County Highway Department are scheduled to be split into two 12-hour shifts in order to ensure crews are working around the clock, Meile said.
“We’re going to try to keep on top of this one,” Meile said.
Jim Sieveking, science and operations officer at the National Weather Service office in St. Charles, Mo., said a winter storm watch was issued Wednesday to warn people of icy weather conditions. The winter storm watch is expected to go into effect late Thursday night and last until 6 p.m. Saturday.
“Right now, it looks like the precipitation will start in the Belleville area probably Friday afternoon,” Sieveking said. “The watch covers portions all the way down to southeast Missouri where they’ll see the precipitation earlier in the day on Friday or late Thursday night. For the Belleville area, it probably won’t begin until Friday afternoon, and then it’ll continue in waves through Saturday night into Sunday morning.”
Sieveking said that it appears the metro-east will primarily receive freezing rain, though some sleet is possible.
Because the St. Louis area had warmer temperatures this week, the meteorologist said he doesn’t believe the freezing rain will cause as many issues as the area saw last month when police agencies and fire departments were inundated with hundreds of emergency calls for crashes and slide-offs.
“The difference between that event and this event is that we’ve been warm the last couple of days, and so the ground is actually a little bit warmer than it was that time in December,” Sieveking said. “That’s a good thing we’re starting off a little bit warmer.”
The Illinois State Police has issued a travel advisory for the weekend. The Missouri Department of Transportation also has issued a winter weather travel advisory and is asking people to avoid travel from Thursday night through Sunday.
“MoDOT crews will be out ahead of the storm using a mixture of chemicals and abrasives including salt brine and salt,” MoDOT State Maintenance Engineer Becky Allmeroth said in a news release. “Ice is the most difficult storm to fight. With large areas of the state expected to get a half inch or more, it can cause downed power lines and potential roadway closures. Motorists should avoid travel this weekend if at all possible.”
The National Weather Service said the storm has potential to bring more than a quarter inch of ice this weekend, which could affect travel conditions on untreated roads.
AccuWeather meteorologist said travel is “likely to be hazardous for hundreds of miles along Interstate 35, I-40 and I-70 in the Central states from Friday to Sunday.”
Where temperatures remain below freezing and rain falls at a heavy rate, the ice will continue to accrue for a few days. Ice could be half an inch thick in some regions. Ice could become substantial enough to weigh down trees and power lines.
“In some areas, the weight of the ice combined with increasing wind later on during the storm could bring down many trees and power lines,” according to AccuWeather meteorologist Eddie Walker.
AccuWeather said cities likely to experience dangerous conditions with possible power outages include Amarillo, Texas; Wichita and Topeka, Kansas; Kansas City; St. Louis; Springfield, Illinois; and Indianapolis.
“The ice storm could rival that of late January and early February of 2002 in the region,” Rossio said, adding that the power could be out for days in some communities of the southern and central Plains during and in the wake of the storm.
Full forecast for the metro-east
Wednesday...A 20 percent chance of showers after 3 p.m. Increasing clouds, with a high near 62. South wind 6 to 11 mph increasing to 12 to 17 mph in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 28 mph.
Wednesday night...A slight chance of showers before 7 p.m., then a chance of rain, mainly after 1 a.m. Cloudy, with a low around 46. South wind 8 to 17 mph, with gusts as high as 28 mph. Chance of precipitation is 50 percent.
Thursday...A 50 percent chance of rain before 1 p.m. Mostly cloudy, with a temperature falling to around 38 by 5 p.m. West wind around 9 mph becoming northwest in the afternoon.
Thursday night...A chance of freezing rain after 1 a.m. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 24. North wind around 9 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30 percent.
Friday...Freezing rain likely, mainly after 1 p.m. Cloudy, with a high near 32. Northeast wind around 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60 percent.
Friday night...Freezing rain likely before 4 a.m., then rain or freezing rain likely between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m., then freezing rain likely after 5 a.m. Cloudy, with a low around 30. Chance of precipitation is 60 percent. New ice accumulation of 0.1 to 0.2 of an inch possible.
Saturday...Freezing rain likely before 1 p.m., then rain likely. Cloudy, with a high near 34. Chance of precipitation is 70 percent.
Saturday night...Rain likely before 3 a.m., then a chance of rain or freezing rain between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m., then a chance of freezing rain after 4 a.m. Cloudy, with a low around 32. Chance of precipitation is 60 percent.
Sunday...Freezing rain likely before 8 a.m., then rain or freezing rain likely between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., then rain likely after 9 a.m. Cloudy, with a high near 37. Chance of precipitation is 60 percent.
Sunday night...A 30 percent chance of rain. Cloudy, with a low around 37.
Monday...Rain likely. Cloudy, with a high near 54. Chance of precipitation is 60 percent.
Monday night...Rain likely. Cloudy, with a low around 42. Chance of precipitation is 60 percent.
Tuesday...Rain likely. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 51. Chance of precipitation is 60 percent.
National Weather Service