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No getting around: Streets, roads might be better Wednesday

No getting around: Streets, roads might be better Wednesday

February 1st, 2011 in News

By late morning, downtown High Street was deserted. Despite early efforts, road crews say it may be a few days before roads get back to normal because of the volume of snow.

Photo by Gerry Tritz

Jefferson City and Cole County elected officials are telling residents to not expect things to start getting better until Wednesday morning at the earliest, perhaps not until Wednesday evening, after the area was hit by a major snow storm.

Nevertheless, blowing snow on Wednesday may continue to cause problems for road crews and motorists even after snow stops falling.

The city and county activated an emergency operations center at city hall Tuesday, which will be in operation until further notice. The city's snow emergency declaration meant that vehicles were prohibited from parking on streets marked with snow route signs.

The bad weather suspended JeffTran and HandiWheels bus services Tuesday and Wednesday. They are expected to resume at 6:45 a.m. Thursday.

Roads rapidly deteriorated after the first snow began to fall around 5 a.m. Tuesday.

By 11:30 a.m., there were reports from law enforcement that visibility had gone down to around zero.

Parking and Streets Director Britt Smith said, "It came down faster than we could plow it, and this is the way it will be for awhile. If the storm stops (Wednesday) morning, the major roads could be in pretty good condition by noon. We hope that all roads could be at least passable by the end of the day (Wednesday).

"Equipment-wise we're OK, but this is going to be a stressful event, and we do expect some breakdowns, so we do have mechanics on-site ready to react if we do have problems," Smith added.

Smith said this snow event is shaping up to be the worst storm since Nov. 2006, when we had around 15 inches of snow.

"Everybody understood they couldn't get around Tuesday, but we hope they realize it will take several days to get back to normal," he said. "The good news is we have invested in the manpower and equipment to handle it"

Cole County Public Works Director Larry Benz said it got so bad Tuesday that they had trucks slide off.

"Our drivers just couldn't see," he said. "We had one go in the ditch on Bald Hill Road and another on Zion Road. MoDOT also had a plow turn over on Route H. The good news was that the drivers weren't hurt."

Benz said road crews stayed at the county public works facility on Monticello Road.

Jefferson City police spent much of Tuesday morning going along snow routes, such as West Main Street, trying to get cars moved so snow plows could get through. If they could not be moved, the cars were towed, as per the snow emergency rules that went into effect Monday night.

Four-wheel drive was a must for law enforcement and emergency personnel.

Not many injury accidents were reported, but authorities did have a large number of slideoffs and vehicles stuck in snow banks to deal with.

On Monday night, a Jefferson City man, Marcus Brown, 26, had minor injuries after swerving to miss a deer in the 200 block of Missouri 179. Because of the slick roadway, his car spun out of control and hit the rock bluff.

A number of tractor trailers reported having trouble getting around Tuesday. One such incident occurred around 10 a.m. when a big rig jackknifed on Route B near Route E. No injuries were reported, but the road was blocked for about a half an hour.

There were also a number of reports of stuck vehicles on U.S. 54 south of town, and at times Tuesday the roadway was blocked.

Local tow truck companies reported waits of as much as an hour as they tried to get to vehicles stuck in the snow. There were also reports of some passing motorists with tow equipment helping pull stuck vehicles out of drifts.

"People will hopefully be using common sense the next couple of days, because we are so dependent on the roads and if the roads can't get cleared either we can't respond or our response time will be greatly impacted," said Cole County Sheriff Greg White.