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County, city cope with slippery storm

Letter carriers, city workers shoulder load

As Old Man Winter tightens his grip around the Columbia area, here are a few winter weather tips to help melt the ice.

  • Dress for cold weather, using layers of clothes.
  • Keep your feet, hands and head covered and dry to prevent heat loss.
  • Breathe at a normal rate and avoid shivering, which could lead to muscle spasms and soreness.
  • Do not drink alcohol. It will cause your skin to flush, which will make you feel even colder.
  • Remain active in your home. This will keep you flexible and warm.

Pets also need special care during cold weather. Pet owners should:

  • Bring pets inside if possible, especially during cold weather.
  • Make sure pets have adequate food and that their water is not frozen.
  • Dog houses should be insulated and protected from the wind.
  • Make sure your pet’s paws, ears and tail don’t freeze. Dry your pet if it’s wet and be careful of ice, which can cut your pet’s paws.

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night kept letter carrier Mike Morrison from the swift completion of his appointed rounds.

Morrison said Monday that he delivered his mail on time and didn’t even slip once. Ten years’ experience and shoe chains provided the needed footing to navigate even the most precarious painted porch, he said.

"You want to get in, get your mail, get it out, get it delivered and get it done,” he said.

Mail trucks in Columbia set out with tire chains and sandbags. None were involved in an accident, and most mail deliveries were made with only slight delays.

"It’s probably the worst day this winter because of the ice,” said Mickey O’Neal, a supervisor of customer service for the Columbia Post Office.

Schools closed, some businesses closed and even Federal Express cancelled its Columbia pick-up service. And without any fanfare, the mail got delivered Monday like every other day.

"Days like this tend to motivate me even more,” Morrison said.

The last time the postal service could not deliver the mail was two years ago when the Columbia area was hit with 19 inches of snow, he said.

Monday’s ice and snow turned the streets of Columbia into slush. The only traffic fatality in the state occurred on Missouri 17 near Iberia in Miller County, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Ella Ponder, 62, of Iberia lost control of her car on the snow and ice covered highway and struck a tree.

"Conditions have gone from bad to worse,” said Frank Abart, director of Boone County Public Works. “We did not anticipate this much ice. Ice is far harder for our department to treat.”

The public works department deployed its snow plows to clear the streets early in the day. Spreaders distributed sand, salt and cinder across the roads.

"All roads are being worked on at the same pace,” Abart said Monday afternoon. “We’ll be working to at least 6, 7, 8 p.m. tonight.”

Meanwhile, city crews sprayed a combination of rock salt and calcium chloride on streets throughout the day. The mixture “creates a brine solution between the surface of the road and the snow or ice,” said Dennie Pendergrass, chief engineer-operations of the Columbia Public Works Department.

Pendergrass said the first priority streets, such as Rock Quarry Road, Broadway, and Old Highway 63 were treated with salt and cinder several times by late Monday.

Hills and streets with traffic signals posed the biggest problem for transportation and road clearing, Pendergrass said. The danger level for the driver increases with the lack of traction on a sloping, icy street, he said.

Public transportation has been slightly delayed by the snow and ice. “It’s been very slow going,” said Dorene Roeglin, city transportation manager. The city buses switched to snow routes.

Public schools also felt the affects of winter. In Columbia and throughout Boone County, school children were kept home. Whether schools open today will depend on an early morning inspection by officials, said Skip Deming, Columbia’s assistant superintendent.

In Ashland, Superintendent Mark Yehle said he wouldn’t know until this morning whether students would return to school.

M.U. canceled classes after 4 p.m. Campus operations and university offices did not close early. University officials said they would decided by 6 a.m. today whether to cancel classes.

Night classes at Columbia College were canceled on Monday, and Stephens College classes were let out early in the day.

Area tow truck companies were hard at work Monday clearing the roads of accidents.

"With these slick road conditions, we are seeing lots of people sliding into ditches,” said Carrie Davenport, with Davenport Towing and Salvage.

Vernon Niles, with Don Lake Towing Service, has also had to deal with motorists sliding off the slippery roads.

"The first accident we had involved an overturned tractor-trailer loaded with orange juice,” Niles said. “By 6 a.m. we had over 45 people slide off the road; it’s very treacherous out there.”

Niles predicted 200 to 300 accidents occurred in the Columbia area on Monday.

According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, as of 4 p.m. no roads in the state were closed. However, there were numerous accidents reported around the Columbia-Boone county area.

"The worst thing to do when you are sliding on the road is to slam on your brakes,” Davenport said.

Although motorists are facing the dangers of icy roads, the homeless face exposure to dangerously low temperatures. Both St. Francis House and The Salvation Army Harbor House have seen increases in the number of residents.

"It (the weather) makes it very difficult to find room for everybody. When the situation becomes life-threatening for people, they need to come inside,” said Steve Jacobs, director of St. Francis House. The facility currently is filled beyond capacity.

The Salvation Army Harbor House has at least 46 residents. Director Timothy Rich said the average stay for shelter residents has become 45 days.

"In a real crisis we’ll sleep people on sofas if we have to. Even when you are filled to capacity it is very difficult to turn away a family with children when they come to your door,” said Rich.

-- Missourian staff writers Adam C. Holland, Sally Washburn and Shannon Williams contributed to this report.

Photo story: Winter wipeout


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