Blizzard hits, closes I-70 on Tuesday

Don Norfleet/FULTON SUN photo: State snow plows almost covered this vehicle with snow that was in the median of U.S. 54 six miles south of Fulton. Snow that started Monday night and continued through Tuesday dumped somewhere between 11-16 inches of snow on Callaway County.

Don Norfleet/FULTON SUN photo: State snow plows almost covered this vehicle with snow that was in the median of U.S. 54 six miles south of Fulton. Snow that started Monday night and continued through Tuesday dumped somewhere between 11-16 inches of snow on Callaway County.

A blizzard that blanketed most of Missouri intensified through Callaway County Tuesday afternoon, creating white-out conditions so hazardous that Interstate 70 was closed for a time to all traffic.

Sgt. Paul Reinsch of the Missouri State Highway Patrol said Interstate 70 was closed after drivers reported they could not see the roadway because of the blinding snowstorm.

“It’s a white-out condition now. Drivers cannot even see where the road is. They had no idea if they were on or off the road. They could not see where they were going. It was so hazardous snow plows were stopped for a period of time, but they resumed plowing later,” Reinsch said Tuesday afternoon.

Reinsch said Interstate 70 was closed Tuesday afternoon starting at about 1 p.m. throughout Boone and Callaway counties in Central Missouri where blizzard conditions were worst. He said it is expected to reopen after driving conditions improve.

“Right now, the patrol is recommending that no one drive unless there is a medical emergency. It’s very difficult to get around now. We are having a lot of vehicles slide off the road,” Reinsch said Tuesday afternoon.

Reinsch said at mid-afternoon Tuesday that he had attended a briefing and was informed that another foot of snow is predicted to fall in Central Missouri.

Hazardous driving conditions spawned an outbreak of traffic accidents Tuesday in Callaway County, including numerous accidents on I-70.

On Tuesday the Missouri State Highway Patrol issued a hazardous winter driving alert in Missouri.

All of the state’s roadways except for Southeast Missouri were snow- and ice-covered. Interstate 44 was especially treacherous because a band of freezing ice and sleet covered the roadway.

The patrol discouraged all travel during this week’s hazardous weather conditions. Reinsch said heavy drifting is expected Tuesday night, compounding problems for snowplows.

“People need to stay home if at all possible, especially during the night when conditions will be treacherous,” Reinsch said.

The patrol reported freezing rain followed by sleet, heavy snow, wind and bitterly cold temperatures made driving dangerous for motorists whose vehicles break down or the slide off the road and become stranded.

Reinsch said he was not aware of any fatal or serious injury accidents.

“We have had a lot of problems with people sliding off roadways, because they can’t see where they are going,” Reinsch said.

Reinsch said patrol troopers began working 12-hour shifts and all leaves have been canceled. He said many patrolmen are using four-wheel drive pickup trucks marked as patrol vehicles to provide coverage on the state’s roadways.

The patrol is working with the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) to place manpower and resources throughout the state during the storm.

Fulton Police reported Tuesday afternoon that it was using four-wheel drive vehicles when possible to get around in the heavy snow. The duty officer reported only a few accidents were reported, because many people were staying indoors.

The Callaway County Courthouse, Westminster College, William Woods University and area schools were among the many entities closed because of the snowstorm.

The National Weather Service predicted 10 to 14 inches of snow would fall in Callaway County on Tuesday and another four to six inches on Tuesday night.

The high Wednesday is expected to be 14 with the low Wednesday night 9 degrees below zero. Wind chills Wednesday night are expected to be 20 below zero with wind gusts up to 34 miles per hour.

Carol A. Shirley, 55, Auxvasse, was injured Monday when she lost control of her minivan on the ice-covered roadway of U.S. 54.

The patrol reported the accident occurred at 6:15 p.m. Monday on U.S. 54 about .2 mile west of Route H. in Audrain County.

Shirley lost control of her 2000 Chrysler Town & Country minivan on the icy road, traveled off the right side of the road, struck a highway marker and overturned.

The patrol reported Shirley sustained minor injuries and was taken by ambulance to Audrain Medical Center.

She was wearing a seat belt and the vehicle sustained moderate damage, the patrol reported.

Heather M. Gannon, 25, West Wego, La., was injured at 7:35 p.m. Monday in an accident on I-70 in Callaway County 10 miles west of Kingdom City.

The patrol reported Gannon swerved to the left to avoid a tractor-trailer truck, lost control and struck the median cables.

Gannon sustained minor injuries and was taken by ambulance to University Hospital in Columbia.

Gannon was wearing a seat belt and her 2010 Toyota sustained moderate damage.

Adam J. Kliethermes, 28, Columbia, was injured at 5:30 p.m. Monday when he lost control of his car on ice-covered I-70.

The patrol said Kliethermes was eastbound and traveling too fast for conditions when his vehicle started sliding on the ice-covered roadway, traveled off the right side of the roadway and overturned.

Kliethermes sustained moderate injuries and was transported by ambulance to University Hospital in Columbia.

He was wearing a seat belt and his 2004 Ford sustained extensive damage.

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