Heavy snow fell across the region Friday, prompting early dismissals at area schools and pretreating of roads and bridges as residents braced for up to a foot of snow.
Snow was expected to fall throughout the night and most of the day Saturday before tapering off later in the day. A snowfall rate of an inch an hour would mean 9 to 12 inches in many inches by midday, according to KTVI Fox 2.
As commuters hit the road, many of them leaving work early, traffic snarled on many roads. Even major roadways were snow covered as plows could not keep up with the snow.
Traffic backed up for miles on Green Mount Road between Shiloh and Belleville as cars found it difficult to go up hills. In one two-mile stretch, traffic was at a standstill at about 5 p.m. By 7 p.m., 4-6 inches of snow had already fallen in parts of O’Fallon, more than falls all winter in some years.
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In Missouri, numerous crashes were resulting in major interstates such as I-44, 55 and 70 being closed for stretches, according to the Missouri Department of Transportation. Some commuters were reporting being stalled in traffic for three or more hours.
IDOT crews were trying to keep up with the rapidly falling snow. Plows were sticking to the main interstates and state highways, such as Illinois 159 between Belleville and Fairview Heights. More than 200 plows were expected to remain on the roads all night, according to KTVI Fox 2.
Late Friday, Illinois State Police reported a traffic fatality at U.S. 40 and Lake Road.
Captain Tim Tyler said a vehicle traveling eastbound lost control and struck a westbound driver. The eastbound driver was not wearing a seat belt, he said.
Since 3 p.m., 75 crashes were reported across the metro-east, Tyler said.
The National Weather Service was predicting a total of 8-12 inches of snow, sleet accumulations of around 1/3 of an inch and a light glaze of ice by Saturday in Southern Illinois and parts of Missouri.
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It’s been six years since the metro-east and St. Louis saw 1 foot of snow. Patrick Walsh, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service St. Louis office, said 12.4 inches of snow was recorded at St. Louis Lambert International Airport on March 24, 2013.
The last time a two-day storm like the one coming to the metro-east brought more than 9 inches of snow was Jan. 5-6, 2014, according to Walsh. A total of 10.8 inches was recorded at Lambert during that storm. Coupled with that were temperatures below zero. The combination kept many schools from reopening after the Christmas break.
The mega storm coming on the weekend will mean that commuter traffic will be minimized. Many people stocked up on groceries Thursday and Friday in anticipation of the storm.
Illinois Department of Transportation crews pretreated roads and bridges at risk of icing, according to a news release from Friday morning. IDOT stated that plowing operations were likely to continue through the weekend.
IDOT, Illinois State Police and local law enforcement agencies were encouraging people to avoid traveling in the storm.
For some, there was no choice.
At Lambert, at least 69 flights had been canceled Friday ahead of the storm, 39 arrivals and 30 departures, according to the airport’s blog. Passengers were having trouble getting taxi and Uber rides once arriving at the airport.
Scott Air Force Base was operating under mission-essential only status from 2 p.m. Friday through Saturday.
Several schools sent students home early because of the pending inclement weather, including in Belleville, East St. Louis, Edwardsville and Collinsville.
Belleville East and West high schools dismissed students at 1:30 p.m. Friday, and their after-school events for Friday and Saturday were canceled.
East St. Louis District 189 canceled parent-teacher conferences and other evening activities scheduled for Friday. Students were already planning to leave early because they had a half-day of school.
The East St. Louis Senior High School basketball games against Vashon High School were rescheduled for Monday night.
Classes at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Lindenwood University-Belleville, McKendree University and Lewis and Clark Community College weren’t expected to be affected by the storm. Students are scheduled to return Monday for the spring semester.
Storm affecting much of Midwest
The National Weather Service says a storm stretching from the nation’s capital to Colorado could bring the highest snow totals in several years to sections of Missouri and Illinois.
The Associated Press reported that the storm is expected to drop 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 centimeters) of snow in the St. Louis metropolitan area into eastern Illinois between Friday and early Sunday.
Large sections of Missouri, Illinois and Indiana are under winter weather advisories, and hazardous travel conditions are expected through most of the weekend.
Sally Johnson, a meteorologist in St. Louis, says the storm has the potential to drop the most snow in five or six years. Missouri received 10.8 inches (27 centimeters) on Jan. 5-6, 2014, and 12.4 inches (31.5 centimeters) on March 23-24, 2013.
The University of Missouri’s flagship campus in Missouri and St. Louis University shut down Friday afternoon, along with numerous public schools. Johnson said the heaviest amounts are expected along the Interstate 70 corridor from Columbia to St. Louis.
St. Louis Lambert International Airport spokesman Jeff Lea says airlines are canceling dozens of flights through Saturday morning. Jefferson City officials also announced plans to close city offices early.
Kansas City is also receiving large amounts of snow, but the storm is not expected to affect the NFL playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium between the Chiefs and Indianapolis Colts.
In Illinois, the weather service snow would begin in southwestern Illinois and spread northeast throughout the evening, reaching the Chicago area by Saturday morning. Snow totals are to taper to the northeast with parts of southwestern Illinois forecast to receive up to 9 inches (23 centimeters). The Chicago area is expected to get between 1 and 4 inches (2.5 to 10 centimeters) and much of central Illinois was expected to receive 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 centimeters).
And in Indiana snow accumulations of 5 to 7 inches (13 to 18 centimeters) are expected between midnight Friday and 7 a.m. Sunday in portions of central, south central, southeastern, southwestern and west central Indiana. It says locally higher amounts of snowfall are possible.
Warming centers will be available to those who need them through Saturday, according to the St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency. They include:
▪ Belleville Public Library, S. Jackson and E. Washington streets in Belleville.
▪ West Branch Public Library, 3414 W. Main St. in Belleville.
▪ Cahokia Public Library, 140 Cahokia Park Drive in Cahokia.
▪ East St. Louis Public Library, 5300 State St. in East St. Louis.
▪ The Salvation Army, 616 N. 16th St. in East St. Louis.
▪ Fairview Heights Public Library, 10017 Bunkum Road in Fairview Heights.
▪ Lebanon Public Library, 314 W. St. Louis St. in Lebanon.
▪ O’Fallon Public Library, 120 Civic Plaza in O’Fallon.
Snow plow crews
While the storm is bringing a big job for snow plow truck drivers, the Illinois Department of Transportation workers can find some respite from one metro-east restaurant.
Sugarfire 64 barbecue at 1425 N. Green Mount Road in O’Fallon announced it will give a free order of brisket tacos to all Illinois Department of Transportation snow crew members on Saturday.
Carolyn P Smith contributed to this report.