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Region gears up for first wintery blast

MoDOT snowplows are ready to go as the region prepares for its first winter storm of the season.
(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)
MoDOT snowplows are ready to go as the region prepares for its first winter storm of the season.

Three weeks into the winter season, and the weather forecast is just now starting to feel like it, with snow and falling temperatures in the forecast.

The city and St. Louis County are both under winter weather advisories until 6 p.m. Thursday.  The National Weather Service says the snow will start after 3 a.m. Thursday, with an 80 percent chance of snow during the day. Wind gusts as high as 32 miles per hour will create widespread blowing snow conditioms. Final accumulations will reach about 3 inches, and the temperature is supposed to struggle to hit the freezing mark.

Streets departments across the region are preparing for the first big event of the season. Kara Price with the Missouri Department of Transportation says 640 employees and 240 trucks are ready to go.

She says the recent warm temperatures will keep most of what sticks to the pavement fairly slushy, but says drivers still need to be careful.

"It will be slick on the roads with any sort of winter weather we get, so just drive slow and be sure to give plenty of time for your morning commute," Price said.

City streets director Todd Waelterman had his crews out spreading salt brine before the first flakes. He says the late start to winter has saved the department thousands of dollars.

"That doesn't mean we're out of the woods yet, because Mother Nature can hit us hard in February or March," he said, "but we were $200,000 ahead of the curve as of the first of the year."

Waelterman says his biggest concern is black ice, which could start forming right around morning rush. That's about when pavement temperatures are expected to get below freezing.

Click here for the latest forecast from the National Weather Service

Click here for the latest road conditions from MoDOT

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.