Metro-East News

This is why the ice storm wasn’t as bad as it could have been

Road crews keeping ahead of storm

Salt trucks were busy Friday morning trying to get ahead of the severe ice storm headed for southwestern Illinois. Fairview Heights, IL, road crews loaded trucks for another round of pre-treatment.
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Salt trucks were busy Friday morning trying to get ahead of the severe ice storm headed for southwestern Illinois. Fairview Heights, IL, road crews loaded trucks for another round of pre-treatment.

The St. Louis region braced itself for a major winter storm over the weekend, but ice accumulation totals came up less than what meteorologists had predicted.

Meteorologists said temperatures weren’t quite low enough to create the perfect storm.

The National Weather Service of St. Louis had predicted last week that the area would get enough ice that it would potentially weigh down power lines and trees as well as create hazardous road conditions. It estimated that the St. Louis region would receive one-quarter to one-half inch of ice between Friday afternoon and Sunday afternoon.

Friday the 13th, a full moon and a major ice storm heading this way. What could go wrong? The St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency knows and is sounding the warning so local folks get prepared ahead of the storm.

So, what happened?

For one, meteorologists at the National Weather Service had mentioned before and after the winter storm that ground temperatures were warm unlike last month when freezing drizzle quickly formed a thin sheet of ice on the grass and roadways.

“A quarter to a half inch was definitely within the ballpark we had. As far as the impact, during the forecast process, we definitely wanted to put out the message that we knew these were possible,” said meteorologist Charley Kelly. “Now given some of the factors that were played, making the impacts as minimal as they were, we had ground temperatures in this area before the event that were in the low 40s and even during the event that were around the mid-30s.”

The National Weather Service also said temperatures above ground had also lingered at 32 degrees or slightly below. The ice that formed overnight Friday had melted by the early afternoon Saturday in the metro-east when the temperature reached a high of 35.

“Temperatures were a big, big factor in this,” Kelly said. “If they were a couple degrees colder, it definitely could have been a lot worse, but the way that they hovered in the ways that they did, that was also a vindicating factor with this storm. If they were a little bit cooler, the impacts would have been much more extensive over the area.”

Slippery sidewalks during the early part of the ice storm Friday, plus the county building closing, led to a pretty deserted downtown in Belleville, IL.

Kelly said the National Weather Service issued preliminary data on its website Monday morning showing local storm totals reported across the region by trained spotters, emergency management officials and citizens.

A quarter inch of ice was measured by late Saturday morning in places south of St. Louis, including St. Francois, Jefferson and Ste. Genevieve counties in Missouri.

Some counties in Southern Illinois also reported at least a quarter inch of ice. Counties south of St. Clair reported higher amounts of freezing rain, including Monroe and Randolph counties. A quarter inch of ice was measured late Friday afternoon in Waterloo by the Monroe County Emergency Management Agency. Monroe County officials also noted at least two trees that fell blocking roads in the Waterloo and Monroe City areas due to ice accumulation. Some power outages were also reported during the ice storm in Waterloo and Maeystown.

The St. Clair County, IL, Emergency Management Agency on Friday was live streaming weather updates on social media. The ice storm started glazing hard surfaces Friday morning but roads were still in decent shape.

Other areas in the metro-east, including St. Clair, Clinton and Madison counties, reported less ice between Friday and Saturday. One-tenth of an inch of freezing rain was estimated in New Baden and Highland. The St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency reported that it measured a little less than one-fifth of an inch of freezing rain in Freeburg that had fallen by Friday afternoon.

Kaitlyn Schwers: 618-239-2526, @kaitlynschwers

Belleville, IL, street department trucks load up and hit the streets to lay down salt to melt ice on the roads.

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