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Massive winter storm dumps heavy snow, tying up traffic for hours

Massive winter storm dumps heavy snow, tying up traffic for hours



 Road conditions are hazardous throughout St. Louis and especially St. Louis County and Jefferson County. Numerous accidents and massive delays have been reported on several main area roads. Nearly 100 flights in and out of Lambert International Airport have been canceled, with airport officials expecting many more Saturday.

 As of 9 p.m. Friday, the National Weather Service reported snow depths from 4 to 8 inches across the St. Louis metro area, with the highest totals in southern parts of St. Louis County.

 Forecasters expect most of the storm's snow to fall overnight into Saturday morning, then another 2 to 4 inches on Saturday. By the time the storm leaves sometime Sunday, the National Weather Service expects up to 13 inches of snow across the St. Louis metro area, with some spots reaching 15 inches "certainly possible," according to a forecast discussion. 

 PHOTOS: Massive winter storm sets sights on St. Louis

 Check school and business closings

• Find the latest forecast

9:20 p.m. UPDATE: The Missouri State Highway Patrol Troop C has seen about 168 crashes since about 10 a.m. Friday morning when the snow started to fall, according to Trooper Dallas Thompson. Only four injuries have resulted from these accidents, and no fatalities. 

Troop C's patrol area encompasses 11 counties in eastern Missouri including St. Louis, Jefferson, Franklin, Lincoln, Perry, Pike and St. Charles.

"The majority of those (crashes) were minor fender benders where they slid into another vehicle or into a ditch," Thompson said. 

9 p.m. UPDATE: At a news conference tonight, MoDOT officials said they had asked for help from area first responders to check on drivers stuck on stretches of Interstate 64 and other major roadways.

“We've had a really rough rush hour today,” said Arisa Prapaisilp,  assistant maintenance engineer.

A hilly stretch of I-64 (Highway 40) near Maryville University had brought traffic in both directions to a standstill as vehicles struggled to make it uphill on the slippery roads. MoDOT trucks helped push vehicles uphill, but many drivers had been stuck in the area for hours.

“People just cannot make it up that hill," Prapaisilp said. She said a MODOT employee who had left for home about 2 p.m. was still stuck at the spot six hours later.

MoDOT snow plows were making slow progress because of the wet, heavy snow and stalled trafic, but officials expect to have an easier time clearing roads overnight as traffic clears and snowfall eases a bit.

Eastbound I-44 remains closed before Antire Road in southwest St. Louis County, and eastbound I-44 in St. Louis City remains closed before Washington Avenue.

8:35 p.m. UPDATE: As steady snow continues to fall across the area, trained National Weather Service spotters have reported snow depths from 4 to 7½ inches. Forecasters expect another 3 to 8 inches to fall before daybreak, with another 2 to 4 inches on Saturday.

7:55 p.m. UPDATE: Schnucks stores said it will close all its locations in the St. Louis region early tonight, at 8 p.m., because of the winter storm. On Saturday, the stores will open at their regular time or 6 a.m., whichever is later.

The southbound Kingshighway Boulevard exit from I-64 is closed because of a police emergency. MoDOT officials expect the exit to be closed until about 9 p.m.

7:35 p.m. UPDATE: Eastbound Interstate 44 is closed because of a crash before Washington Avenue in St. Louis. Traffic is backed up all the way south of Chouteau Avenue, and MoDOT officials don't expect to have the road open until at least 9 p.m.

Westbound Highway 40 (Interstate 64) is closed in two spots, before Woods Mill Road near Ladue, and past Clayton Road. MoDOT officials expect the roads to remain closed until at least 8:30.

Eastbound traffic on Forest Park Parkway was at a standstill from near DeBalivere Avenue to Kingshighway with cars and buses stalled in the snow.

7:20 p.m. UPDATE: Nearly 100 flights in and out of Lambert International Airport had been canceled as of 6 p.m. because of the winter storm. Airport officials expect dozens of additional cancellations, urging air travelers to check with their airlines about the status of their flights before going to the airport.

7 p.m. UPDATE: Rush hour might be over, but the traffic troubles through the area remain because of crashes. Eastbound I-70 has been closed at Goodfellow Boulevard, with MoDOT officials expecting it to remain closed for an hour and a half.

The eastbound I-64 exit to northbound I-270 is also closed, and officials don't expect to re-open until after 8:30 p.m.

The National Weather Service reported 5 inches of snow at its office in Weldon Spring.

6:30 p.m. UPDATE: Metro buses are seeing delays of up to an hour because of heavy snow and slow traffic, said Jerry Vallely, communications director for Bi-State Development. Buses have had to accommodate city trucks plowing snow on the routes and making detours around traffic, hills and other poor road conditions. MetroLink trains were not experiencing any delays.

The Loop Trolley said trolley service has ended for the day because of bad weather.

Also, yet another crash has closed northbound I-55 past Potomac Street. MoDOT officials expect the road to be closed until roughly 7 p.m.

The St. Louis Public Library, which earlier said it would be closed tonight, has announced all locations will also be closed Saturday.

6:20 p.m. UPDATE: A crash has closed eastbound Interstate 44 before Washington Avenue. Missouri transportation officials say the road will be shut down for at least an hour.

6 p.m. UPDATE: The southbound exit on Interstate 55 to Loughborough Avenue is closed because of an accident. MoDOT expects the closure to last about an hour.

5:42 p.m. UPDATE: The City of St. Louis had 50 trucks out plowing snow on major roadways Friday, said Kent Flake, Commissioner of Streets. Workers had started salting the roads Wednesday night and were expecting to use a total of about 20,000 tons of salt throughout the weekend.

Metro buses routes were experiencing delays late Friday afternoon of up to 30 minutes or more because of the road conditions, said Jerry Vallely, communications manager for Bi-State Development.

MetroLink was operating on schedule. Employees had salted the walkways, MetroLink platforms and Park-Ride lots and will be clearing the areas of snow throughout Friday evening.

Metro riders can check the status of their bus or train up until 8 p.m. Friday by texting the Metro information line at 314-207-0786, Vallely said. The information line will re-open at 7 a.m. Saturday and stay open until 4 p.m. Service updates will also be posted to and Metro's Twitter and Facebook pages throughout the weekend.

The Metro Call-A-Ride service was also experiencing delays, Vallely said. He said customers would be contacted if there ride was experiencing significant delays. Customers can call 314-289-5230 to check on their service.

In Jefferson County, Sheriff Dave Marshak said on Twitter he has confirmed 50 accidents and requests for help on the roads.

5:20 p.m. UPDATE: Missouri's men's basketball game at South Carolina that was scheduled for noon Saturday has been postponed, according to the university. 

5 p.m. UPDATE: Several metro highways are temporarily closed, including eastbound Highway 40 (Interstate 64) just east of Chesterfield, the southbound I-170 ramp to eastbound Highway 40 and southbound U.S. 67 near Creve Coeur. Most roads are slippery, and traffic in many spots in St. Louis and St. Louis County is causing massive delays.

Hoping to head out to enjoy the nightlife at Pop's or Oz in Sauget, Ill.? You're out of luck. They're closed tonight. Whether they reopen tomorrow will be determined later.

4:25 p.m. UPDATE: The Weather Channel's Jim Cantore, renowned for showing up to report from the middle of the nation's worst weather, tweeted that he has landed in St. Louis this afternoon.

Amtrak has also canceled River Runner trains 311 and 314 scheduled to run Saturday morning.

4:05 p.m. UPDATE: Snowy and icy conditions led to a plane sliding off the runway in Columbia, Mo. KOMU reported a bus couldn't reach the American Airlines flight with 80 passengers aboard because the runway was so icy. No injuries were reported, though the airport closed to all air traffic until further notice.

3:42 p.m. UPDATE: The Missouri Department of Transportation asked motorists Friday afternoon to stay clear of MoDOT trucks plowing snow off the roadways as snow continued to fall. 

The trucks are moving more slowly because the snowfall is wet and heavy, said Mark Croarkin, an assistant district engineer with MoDOT. Snow plows and semi trucks on narrow or hilly roadways were stalling and having a difficult time starting up again, he said. MoDOT maps show almost all roads in the St. Louis are snow-covered.

"If you think you're going to drive around a plow in this you're going to have trouble," Croarkin said. He advised motorists to take their time driving and to take avoid driving over hilly roads, if possible. 

Evening rush hour traffic was less busy than usual thanks to a large number of offices, businesses and schools closing early, but MoDOT officials were seeing a large number of stalled vehicles, Croarkin said. All St. Louis Public Library locations closed at 3 p.m. 

Forecasters with the National Weather Service continue to expect a total of 8 to 12 inches of snow in the St. Louis area by Sunday morning, though areas northwest of the metro area as close as Lincoln County could see up to 15 inches of snow.

The worst of the snowfall will hit the area overnight Friday, said Kevin Deitsch a meteorologist with the National Weather Service offices in Weldon Spring. St. Louis area residents should expect to wake up to about 6 to 9 inches of snow by Saturday morning. 

An additional 2 to 3 inches would accumulate through Saturday, Deitsch said. Forecasters expect the heaviest snowfall to end about midnight Saturday with some light snow showers to continue into Sunday morning. 

3 p.m. UPDATE: The Missouri Department of Transportation reports road conditions quickly becoming worse, showing nearly all roads in the St. Louis region covered with snow. Illinois traffic cameras show mostly clear roadways, but snow starting to accumulate on shoulders and medians west of roughly I-255.

The National Weather Service updated its forecast, saying widespread weekend storm totals of 8 to 12 inches of snow are now expected across the area, with the heaviest snow to fall tonight into Saturday morning.

City Museum said it will close at 5 p.m. Friday. 

2:45 p.m. UPDATE: Moderate snow has already begun covering most roads west and south of St. Louis, steady snow has started to accumulate in downtown St. Louis and light sleet has reached most of the Metro East.

The St. Louis Zoo and St. Louis Art Museum said it will close today as of 3 p.m., and all St. Charles Library branches are closed.

RELATED: Check school and business closings and early dismissals

• Find the latest forecast

Missouri Department of Transportation maintenance workers, (left to right), Kyle Rhoden, Chaz Baker and Sterlian(CQ) Nash refit a vehicle on F…

ORIGINAL STORY: The National Weather Service raised its prediction for St. Louis area snowfall late Friday morning, saying that 8 to 12 inches could fall in areas along Interstate 70 in Missouri and Interstate 55 in Illinois. The area had already been bracing for a "major winter storm," in the words of the weather service.

Kevin Deitsch, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service offices in Weldon Spring, said it could be the biggest snowfall since 2014 and warned of an evening commute that could be "severely impacted" in a morning news conference, before the forecast was revised again. 

"If you have the opportunity to leave work or school early we suggest you do so," Deitsch said. 

Deitsch said the precipitation is expected to start as sleet mid-day Friday, turn to snow and increase about 3 p.m. in the St. Louis area. That represents an earlier arrival time than had been predicted in recent days. The weather service also said that  a layer of warm air could affect the balance between mostly snow and a wintry mix, and the resulting total snowfall. 

By 1 p.m., people living in Wildwood, O'Fallon, Mo., and Brentwood all reported snow or sleet was falling. The National Weather Service said the snow could also be accompanied by around 1/3 of an inch of sleet and a light glaze of ice in central, east central and southeast Missouri and the Metro East.

A winter storm warning is in effect from 9 a.m. Friday through midnight Saturday, when the snowfall is expected to taper off.

With days of warning, workers sprayed brine on streets and salted parking lots. Some smaller schools or rural districts closed in advance of the storm, with others announcing that they were sending students home as early as noon Friday.

Mizzou officials announced the campus would close at 1 p.m.  St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger announced that county offices and county health centers would close at 2 p.m. 

The St. Louis Science Center is closing at 2:30 Friday, and will open at 11 a.m. Saturday. Missouri History Museum announced it would close at 3 p.m., as would the Soldiers Memorial Military Museum and the Missouri History Society Library & Research Center.

The Missouri Botanical Garden and Shaw Nature Reserve in Gray Summit will open at 10  a.m. on Saturday. 

Television weather forecasters were in "stormmode" and there were the usual social media postings about a run on bread and milk in area stores.

Officials also warned drivers to stay off the roads if possible, or travel with a full tank of gas and an emergency kit. Some cities also prohibit parking on snow emergency routes if snowfall exceeds 2 inches or ask residents to try and avoid parking on the routes

Bob Becker, district maintenance engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation, asked drivers to give plows plenty of room in the news conference. He said more than 200 MODOT trucks will be on the roads. 

"If you get home, stay home," he said of Friday's commute. He also asked drivers to stay off the road until after at least lunch on Saturday.

Highway Patrol tow trucks are now clearing any abandoned vehicles from the road before the snow, said spokesman Dallas Thompson. 

The Rev. Larry Rice, who regularly hands out food and other essentials to the homeless outside St. Louis City Hall on Fridays, said his group was doubling the number of blankets and bus tickets available in advance of the storm. He said mainly homeless people ride the buses to stay warm, and he expected to give out at least 1,000 tickets Friday.

Information about the Butterfly House has been deleted. It is closed through Jan. 25.

Sledding on Art Hill: A St. Louis tradition since 1905

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Reporter covering breaking news and crime by night. Born in Algeria but grew up in St. Louis. Previously reported for The Associated Press in Jackson, Mississippi and at the Wichita Eagle in Wichita, Kansas.

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South Dakota native and 23-year journalism vet who spent almost 19 years as a genuine Florida Man.

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