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story.lead_photo.caption FILE: Road crews throughout the county in 2018 labor to clear away snow. Severe thunderstorms are expected today throughout central Missouri tonight and snow storms are expected in northern portions of Missouri and beyond today through Thursday. Photo by Helen Wilbers / Fulton Sun.

Multiple local and national agencies are urging caution for local Thanksgiving travelers.

Mark Britt, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service of St. Louis, said there is potential for severe thunderstorms in central Missouri and further south. Severe thunderstorms are expected to affect Fulton, Jefferson City and Columbia in the late afternoon and evening hours today.

"Because of a (winter) storm system (to the north), this is going to bring the potential for severe weather to parts of Missouri into Arkansas," Britt said. "There's a potential for large hail, damaging winds and perhaps a tornado."

Britt said wind gusts throughout the affected area are expected to be as strong as 40 mph tonight and Wednesday morning. He encourages people to know how to get their storm warnings and to know where to go for shelter in the case of severe weather.

Additionally, Britt said a winter storm in the Rocky Mountains will affect much of the central plains and Midwest today and Wednesday. Many parts of northern Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa and northern Wisconsin are expected to be impacted with estimated snowfall from 6-12 inches in certain areas.

"Anyone that's planning on traveling through these areas should consider bringing a winter safety kit, spare food and shovels along with them," Britt said.

Britt does not expect any snow in Missouri from this storm, but he said there's potential for some on Thanksgiving morning from a second storm system in northern portions of the state. He said the second storm will be weaker than the first and any accumulation would be "light."

The Missouri Department of Transportation is emphasizing roadway safety as the holiday traditionally brings an increase of impaired driving, distracted driving and heavy interstate congestion. One date in particular MoDOT warns travelers about is the night before Thanksgiving.

"In Missouri, we've averaged 16 people dying on our roadways each year during the Thanksgiving holiday period," said Jon Nelson, assistant to the Missouri Highway Safety and Traffic engineer. "These tragedies are completely preventable and should be considered unacceptable. Instead of simply accepting these deaths as inevitable, we have every reason to believe zero fatalities can be achieved during the 2019 holiday if we all make responsible choices behind the wheel."

MoDOT also raised concerns about Black Friday. Nelson asked that as drivers bounce from store to store looking for the best deals, they ensure mobile shopping and phone calls are left to the car's passengers.

According to MoDOT, AAA estimated nearly 50 million people will be on the nation's roadways, with congestion peaking Wednesday afternoon. This is the highest anticipated Thanksgiving travel volume since 2005 and trips could take as much as four times longer.

According to AAA, gas prices in the state of Missouri currently average at $2.25 per gallon, seven cents higher than it was in 2018. However, according to GasBuddy, 2019's average is the fourth lowest it has been in the past 10 years, with the high being $3.14 per gallon in 2012 and the low at $1.85 per gallon in 2015.

AAA reported the national gas price average is currently $2.59 per gallon. According to GasBuddy, this is the fifth lowest it has been in the past 10 years.

"The national average is down 2.6 cents per gallon from a month ago, yet stands 5.1 cents per gallon higher than a year ago," according to a news release by GasBuddy.

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