Snow begins to taper off as St. Louis region braces for frigid temperatures

Snow begins to taper off as St. Louis region braces for frigid temperatures

ST. LOUIS — As snowfall eased late Thursday afternoon, strong winds picked up and temperatures began to drop in what forecasters are expecting to be the St. Louis area’s coldest December day since 1989.

National Weather Service forecasters expect temperatures to be around four below zero on Thursday evening. Wind gusts of up to 45 miles per hour will not only blow away the light and dry snow that fell earlier in the day and reduce visibility to less than a quarter mile, but the gusts will also become dangerously cold wind chills of up to 30 degrees below zero generate.

The agency issued a wind chill alert for the St. Louis area from Thursday evening through Friday noon.

According to NWS records, temperatures reached a low of -16 on December 22, 1989 in St. Louis.

Most of the snowfall in the region occurred between 11am and 3pm, and NWS was scheduled to release the next round of snowfall estimates Thursday at 6pm. Until then, another band of snow is expected to pass through the region.

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Snowfall and freezing temperatures are bringing dangerous conditions to the St. Louis area on Thursday, December 22, 2022.

The snowfall created dangerous travel conditions on one of the busiest holiday travel days of the year, prompting local officials to urge people to avoid travel during the storm and give road crews time and space to clean up.

Cleanup is also made more difficult by the cold temperatures, which dramatically reduce road salt’s ability to melt ice and snow, said Becky Allmeroth, chief safety and operations officer for the Missouri Department of Transportation.

Additives like beet juice, calcium chloride, and magnesium can help the salt stay effective at these lower temperatures.

“Below about 25 degrees, the salt really starts to lose its potency,” she said. “So if you put in a pound of salt and it’s 25 degrees outside, about 50 pounds of ice will melt. But if it’s five degrees or zero degrees, it’s only melting about five pounds of ice.”

Allmeroth said because Thursday’s snow was mostly dry and powdery, crews didn’t rely on salt as much as they tried to keep the snow dry so it could be easily plowed off the roads.

While dry snow may not make roads as slippery as wet precipitation, it does lead to whiteout conditions, according to Allmeroth. She said conditions on Interstate 44 were particularly bad.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol said as of 2 p.m. there had been no fatal accidents and they had responded to 54 stranded motorists, 36 accidents, including six with injuries, in the area.

For comparison, on February 3, as 6 to 10 inches of snow fell through the region, the agency responded to 393 stranded motorists and 91 crashes.

Cold is a danger to the homeless in St. Louis

Nick Evers of St. Louis warms up with steam coming out of a manhole cover on Market Street near Kiener Plaza during snowfall with teenage temperatures on Thursday, December 22, 2022. Evers tried to get money for a train ticket to see his mother at Little Rock but thought he would stay safe outside. Photo by Robert Cohen, [email protected]

Robert Kohen

Several businesses and government agencies closed early Thursday, including the St. Louis County offices and the district courts of St. Louis County and St. Louis City.

At St. Louis Lambert International Airport, travelers rushed to get out of town before the storm hit as cancellations tumbled down the departure and arrival boards. The flight data site FlightTracker reported more than 100 canceled flights by midday. And it didn’t stop there: the website reported that 50 more flights scheduled for Friday had been cancelled.

Christine Edwards, of Mattoon, Illinois, sat in Terminal 2 Thursday afternoon, hoping her daughter’s plane from Denver wouldn’t be next. She had driven down this morning to pick up her daughter, but the plane was four hours late and counting.

Snowfall in cold conditions in St. Louis

Carter, who declined to give his last name Dupo, clears snow from the sidewalks in front of the 100 N. Broadway building at Chestnut Street on Thursday, December 22, 2022 amid snow falls with teenage temperatures. Photo by Robert Cohen, [email protected]

Robert Kohen

“I’ll have to find a hotel,” Edwards said.

The St. Louis County Police Department said its officers will be more visible than usual in neighborhoods to ensure residents can easily call police for help during the storm and cold temperatures.

Some homeless advocates also worried about the extreme drop in temperature, saying there weren’t enough beds to accommodate everyone in need of shelter.

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