"Mother Nature gave us a nasty surprise."
Cole County Public Works Director Larry Benz summed up the feelings of many with that statement after a major snow storm hit the area Thursday.
The National Weather Service Office in St. Louis estimated the Jefferson City area got 8 to 10 inches of snow. Weather.com reported official totals stood at 6.4 inches at 5 p.m.
"We were expecting 2 to 4 inches of snow, which is significant, but this was a a high intensity storm, and it was tough to keep up with," said Britt Smith, Jefferson City operations division director. "Thankfully, many people heeded warnings and stayed home, and that made our jobs easier."
"The amount of sleet we had made it worse for our smaller trucks to get through," said Benz. "The morning was tough, but things got better in the afternoon."
MoDOT spokesman Jason Schafer said they brought in contractors to help with the 225 plows they have running in their central district.
"Along I-70 we had more snow and along I-44 we had more sleet - two different weather patterns to deal with," he said. "We haven't had a sizable storm in a couple of years, and we stayed up with it the best we can."
Authorities in Jefferson City switched to unmarked and marked four-wheel drive vehicles as the snow/sleet got worse as the morning continued.
Shortly after noon, the police department urged motorists to use extreme caution when driving on the roadways. But officers urged drivers to not travel because of the treacherous conditions.
Numerous accident reports were taken, but most, if not all, did not involve injuries.
The majority of calls were for vehicles getting stuck along streets and highways.
The city's bus system, JeffTran, was first suspended until noon so city officials could determine if the routes could safely be run. But by noon, the decision had been made to suspend the service for the day.
A variety of other services and offices were shut down for the day, including the Washington Park Ice Arena, William Woods University offices, the University of Missouri campus, the Columbia airport, the Missouri River Regional Library and trash collections through the city.
For today, Benz said, they should have roads in good shape for the weekend.
"The plan is to have our part-time drivers come in to check on things through the night and have our full-time crews out at 4 a.m.," he said. "We've also had our graders working, first on the paved roads where needed and then hitting the gravel roads."
"If it totally stopped, it would take us a couple of hours to get our arteries in good shape," Smith said. "We've had a light winter up until now, so we have plenty of materials. We pushed more than used chemicals Thursday. When we get them cleared, we'll keep using chemicals. But how effective they are will depend on how cold the temperatures get."