Winter storm blasts Missouri hard

AP photo: Semi-trucks disappear into the white snow as they travel along I-70 Tuesday near Boonville. State officials closed a number of major highways Tuesday afternoon, including I-70 and Highway 54.

AP photo: Semi-trucks disappear into the white snow as they travel along I-70 Tuesday near Boonville. State officials closed a number of major highways Tuesday afternoon, including I-70 and Highway 54.

Potentially the worst winter storm to hit Missouri in decades began its trek across the state Tuesday, dumping more than a foot of snow while delivering freezing rain, blustering winds and dangerously cold temperatures.

By midday, parts of southwest Missouri already had more a foot of snow. Stockton had 15 inches, Joplin 14, Carthage 13. The storm was so bad in Polk County that emergency officials requested help from the National Guard because the county didn’t have enough vehicles to get elderly residents and shut-ins to shelter if power would go out.

The state Department of Transportation said many major roads and interstates were covered with snow and/or ice. MoDOT and the Missouri State Highway Patrol urged people to stay home unless they had to go out.

Early accounts indicated people were heeding that advice. Only a few accidents were reported across the state, according to the patrol.

Snowfall totals expected to reach record levels in many locations were off to a fast start, with the storm striking first in southwest Missouri before continuing its northeastern track.

By the time it reached mid-Missouri, “whiteout” conditions from the snow and wind were so bad that MoDOT shut down Interstate 70 Tuesday afternoon in three counties.

Many communities all but shut down. In Columbia, the University of Missouri canceled classes Tuesday because of weather for just the third time in 20 years, and did the same for Wednesday.

Missouri lawmakers cut their week short because of the storm. The full House was not scheduled to meet in a formal session until next week, though a few House committees still planned hearings.

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