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St. Louis braces for snow and cold as blizzard moves toward region

Deacon Jones, 7, shovels snow on Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022, outside of his home in south St. Louis. Winter storm Landon brought a thick ice glaze and almost a foot of snow in some parts of the St. Louis-metro.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Deacon Jones, 7, clears snow off the sidewalk in front of his house on Feb. 2 in south St. Louis. Meteorologists expect bitter cold and snow to arrive in the region early Thursday morning.

Highway workers and road crews in the St. Louis region are preparing for a blizzard expected Thursday by pre-treating roads and are urging people to stay home.

The storm will bring with it snow, strong winds and the coldest temperatures so far this season.

“The temperatures are going to play the biggest role,” St. Louis Streets Commissioner Kent Flake said. “Somewhere between noon and 4 p.m., temperatures will drop fast. That’s going to be a critical time, and that’s when we’re going to do everything we can.”

Snow will start early Thursday morning and continue throughout the day, with meteorologists expecting up to 4 inches to fall.

Scientists from the National Weather Service in St. Louis predict temperatures will plummet from above 30 degrees to near zero in the course of a few hours Thursday afternoon.

Extremely high-speed winds up to 45 mph are possible Thursday night through Friday morning, with wind chills dropping to 35 degrees below zero.

State and local road crews spent Wednesday pretreating roads and coordinating work schedules. Officials from the Missouri Department of Transportation and the St. Louis Street Department say all hands will be on deck for the storm.

“Anyone we can get in a large dump truck, we’re putting them there,” Flake said.

Missouri Department of Transportation snow plows drive east while treating ice and snow building up on Interstate 44 on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022 in St. Louis, Mo.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri Department of Transportation snowplows drive east while treating ice and snow building up on Interstate 44 earlier this year.

The freezing cold makes this storm particularly dangerous, said Missouri Department of Transportation District Maintenance Engineer Bob Becker.

“When those temperatures drop like that, our chemicals don't work as well,” he said. “It just takes slower, and it takes longer for it to be effective.”

Becker says high winds will likely blow snow back onto recently plowed roads, decreasing visibility and making driving more treacherous.

He said people should stay off roads unless traveling is absolutely necessary. Getting stranded in such cold temperatures could be life-threatening.

If people must drive, they should do it with a full tank of gas and with blankets, water and charged cellphones in the car. Never attempt to drive around a snowplow, and plan to drive slowly for the next few days as road crews do their work.

MoDOT is around 1,000 workers short of an ideal workforce for a “24/7 winter event,” officials from the department said during a news conference Wednesday. It will be many new hires’ first major blizzard, and people will need to be patient.

The state agency will clear interstates first before moving to less-traveled roadways.

Sarah Fentem is the health reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.