Fischer calls roads 'brutal'; snow totals topping a foot in many places nationwide

A man scrapes the windows on his truck after leaving the County Market on Broadway after buying bags of salt. (H-W Photo/Steve Bohnstedt)
Posted: Feb. 21, 2013 2:12 pm Updated: Mar. 16, 2013 4:31 pm
Traffic heads east on Broadway at the intersection with 18th Street. (H-W Photo/Steve Bohnstedt)


Herald-Whig reporters and photographers are out and about, finding out how people are dealing with the storm that started at around noon on Thursday. Search for #Qweather on Twitter to view several photos from H-W photographers. 

9:35 p.m. — Quincy Medical Group announced that all of its rural affiliates would be closed on Friday.

9:00 p.m. — Quincy public and parochial schools have announced they will be closed on Friday.

8:25 p.m. — Many schools in the region have already announced closings for Friday, including Hannibal, Payson and Liberty public schools. Check the closings and cancellations list here.

7:10 p.m. — From MoDOT: Marion County U.S. 61 southbound at Clear Creek just north of Hannibal is now open to traffic. Traffic is flowing slowly; roads are still covered with snow.

6:40 p.m. — The snowstorm hasn't slowed down business at the 18-Wheeler restaurant along Mo. 6, just off U.S. 61, in Taylor, Mo.

"We're pretty busy," said Robert Wittner, the restaurant's kitchen manager. "Theres'a lot of trucks still coming in off the roads, and a lot of truck drivers are coming in. It's been pretty normal."

The biggest impact from the storm has been on employees, many of whom called in and said they couldn't make it to work.

"We had the complete second shift and third shift call in. So the first shift's been running it so far all day," Wittner said.

He said those first-shift employees will be earning "quite a bit" of overtime this week, but he's hoping some other workers will be able to come in soon to relieve them.

"We're still working on getting some in here, but we may have to go get them or something," he said.

Wittner said the restaurant plans to continue to operate on its usual 24-hour schedule.

5:55 p.m. — MoDOT reports the U.S. 61 in Hannibal, Mo., (at O'Reilly's) is now open. Traffic is flowing slowly and the roads are still covered with snow. Travel is not recommended in most of Missouri, MoDOT says.

5:30 p.m.. — CGB Enterprises announces that grain trucking hours at CGB Naples facility will start at 9 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 22, due to weather conditions.

5:15 p.m. — The snowstorm has resulted in more business for certain restaurants that deliver food — at least for those that have remained open.

While one Papa John's franchise operating out of the Steamboat Bend shopping center in Hannibal, Mo., announced it would be shutting down for the day at
4 p.m. Thursday because of the storm, the Papa John's franchise on Broadway in Quincy remained open and has been seeing steady business from customers yearning for pizza to be delivered to their homes.

"We thought we'd actually be more busy than this. But we have gotten quite a few calls, though," said Alex Lewis, one of the managers of the Quincy store.

Lewis said making deliveries during bad weather is simply part of pizza business, because calls for deliveries tend to jump whenever the weather worsens.

He said some of Papa John's delivery drivers are able to handle the snowy conditions better than others.

"The ones with four-wheel-drive don't have that much of a problem, but we've had a couple of drivers get stuck already," Lewis said at about 4:45 p.m.
Thursday. "There's one that's stuck right now. We might have to dig him out."

Lewis speculated the Hannibal franchise might have closed early "because the roads in Hannibal are pretty hilly in most places," providing a major challenge for pizza deliveries.

The management of the Hannibal store posted on its Facebook page a message about the closing that says, in part: "We appreciate your understanding as we want our staff to be home with families and safe."

The business will reopen at 10:30 a.m. Friday, the note says.

5:00 p.m. — Quincy snow emergency official. Here's a link to the snow emergency routes. It will be effective until further notice. No parking on streets marked with snow emergency signs.

4:35 p.m. — Quincy Mayor John Spring tells reporter Matt Hopf that the city will declare a snow emergency. Snow emergency means that cars parked along snow routes need to be moved. An official announcement should be coming soon.

4:35 p.m. — The Adams County Ambulance Service is so far managing to carry out its emergency services despite the snowy conditions, according to EMS Chief Paul Davis.

"We've had a relatively calm day. Just the normal, run-of-the-mill emergencies," Davis said. "We haven't responded to any significant crashes. We responded to a couple, but nothing signficant."

Davis said some of the rural ambulances have completed runs along some snow-packed roads, but they haven't had any difficulty getting to or from their destinations.

"We haven't had any problem getting around so far," he said. "It's just slow going because of the snow. But the roads, we've found, have been obviously snow packed, but they're passable as long as we practice due diligence."

Davis said unlike the massive blizzard of 2011, his department hasn't "ramped up" its preparations for this particular storm "because of the relatively short" time this storm is expected to last.

Two years ago, for example, snow plows accompanied ambulances on certain calls. But that step hasn't been necessary at this point, Davis said.

Nonetheless, he said the department is making sure the ambulance crews are prepared to do their work in these nasty conditions.

"We're making sure the crews protect themselves against hypothermia and exposure conditions," he said. "And we make sure each ambulance has a shovel and rock salt — and those things that give it traction — to help us get into a place that hasn't been shoveled yet."

3:45 p.m. — From the Associated Press:

The storm brought some relief to a region of the country that has been parched for nearly a year, engulfed in the worst drought in decades. Climatologists say 12 inches of snow is equivalent to about 1 inch of rain, depending on the density of the snow.

Vance Ehmke, a wheat farmer near Healy, Kan., said the nearly foot of snow was "what we have been praying for."

"The big question is, ‘Is the drought broke?' " Ehmke asked.

Near Edwardsville, Ill., farmer Mike Campbell called the snow — or any precipitation — a blessing after a bone-dry growing season in 2012. He hopes it is a good omen for the spring.

"The corn was just a disaster," Campbell said of 2012.

3:44 p.m. — From the Associated Press:

Snow totals have passed the foot mark in many places: Monarch Pass, Colo., had 17 1/2 inches, Hutchinson, Kan., 14 inches and Wichita, Kan., 13 inches. A few places in far northern Oklahoma saw between 10 to 13 1/2 inches of snow. The National Weather Service said up to 18 inches of snow were possible in central Kansas.

With that in mind, Kansas transportation officials — and even the governor — urged people to simply stay home.

Drivers were particularly warned away from the Kansas Turnpike, which had whiteout conditions. Interstate 70 was also snow-packed and a 90-mile stretch of that road was closed between Salina and Hays.

"If you don't have to get out, just really, please, don't do it," Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said.

3:05 p.m. — Quincy University called off classes at 2 p.m. due to the severe weather. Brandon Cain, QU student senate president, and some friends posted an "urgent" message to students using Facebook to generate interest for a campus snowball fight. "We're pretty much just enjoying the
festivities," Cain said. More than 30 students have shown up outside of Willer Hall to sling snow at one another.

3 p.m. — The Quincy Mall has shut down. Mall Manager Kimm Minnick said all retail stores, with the exception of Sears, would be closing early so workers could get home before travel conditions became much worse. Minnick said the mall was seeing very little customer traffic anyway Thursday afternoon because of the blizzard conditions outside.

"It's very quiet," she said before the mall's closure.

The mall plans to reopen on its usual schedule at 10 a.m. Friday, Minnick said.

The mall has a private contractor that plows snow off the facility's huge parking lot. Minnick said the contractor started work immediately after the snow started falling late Thursday morning. More plowing work is expected to continue throughout the evening hours.

2:55 p.m. — The Quincy Family YMCA plans to close its doors at 6 p.m. Thursday because of the storm.

2:45 p.m. — The Illinois State Police says I-172 and I-72 were at a standstill in multiple places Thursday afternoon because of incidents involving vehicles having difficulty traversing through the snow.

Trooper Mike Kindhart, safety education officer at the ISP¹s District 20 headquarters in Pittsfield, said traffic in the area of U.S. 54 and Ill. 107 near Pittsfield was "completely closed down" in mid-afternoon Thursday because a semi-tractor trailer jackknifed, blocking the roadway. Traffic was
backed up a long distance in all directions. He also said portions of Ill. 57 were "almost impassible" because of drifting snow.

Kindhart said highways throughout the West-Central Illinois region are "completely snowpacked and covered with numerous inches of snow. You cannot see lines form on either side of the road. We have many cars in ditches."

In addition, multiple accidents have been reported.

"If anybody had to stop in the middle of the road for any reason, even getting back up and taking off is at times impossible," he said. "There is no seeing the white lines, no seeing the yellow lines, and road crews are just not able to keep up right now."

He advises people to avoid traveling and stay off the roads until the blizzard stops.

"We need people to stay where they're at. We can't get to enough of them," he said. "The more people we've got out there, the more people we have problems with. We just need people to stay put for a while and let (plowing crews) catch up."

One trouble spot in the area has been a hilly section of Illinois 96 at Riley's curve on the way to Payson.

"We've got cars stuck on the hill that cannot get all the way up, and cars are backed up behind it," Kindhart said. "Once one car gets stuck, we've got everybody stuck."

He said people trying to get home should "most definitely take your time as much as possible" and turn on one's car lights.

"The more visible we can make people the better," he said.

2:44 p.m. — Lt. John Zerbonia with the Hannibal Police Department says the Marion County Emergency Dispatch is requesting the public refrain from calling 911 for non-emergency calls. The numerous non-emergency calls are congesting the call lines.

2:40 p.m. — The Hannibal Police Department is requesting residents of Hannibal remain at home and do not leave their house unless it is an emergency.

"We also want to inform the public that officers will only be responding to emergency calls and traffic accidents involving injury or if someone is trapped in their vehicle," Lt. John Zerbonia said in a press release. "We will not be responding to any other type calls. If you are involved in a minor vehicle accident, we are requesting you acquire all pertinent information and come to the police department when weather conditions allow."

2:37 p.m. — Adams County Sheriff Brent Fischer summed up the conditions on county roadways Thursday afternoon in one word.

"Brutal," he said.

Fischer was stationed on Illinois 96 between Quincy and Payson for most of the afternoon.

"I can tell you that 96 is a mess right now with the hills around Dead Man's Curve," Fischer said. "It's very difficult to get up the hill."

Fischer said that U.S. 24 is becoming more difficult to drive on as the snow falls.

2:31 p.m. — Quincy Police Chief Rob Copley said his department is backlogged with calls for assistance.

"We're very busy," Copley said. "We are handling emergencies first, but we are getting stuck in places as well. Please have patience. If you need the police, we will get there when we can."

Copley said he has not called in extra officers. He said they were still at normal staffing levels.

2:33 p.m. — Press release from Kroc Center says the facility plans to open at 9 a.m. Friday.

2:27 p.m. — The Quincy Mall announced that all of its stores were going to close at 3 p.m. The lone exception was Sears, which decided to stay open. The mall plans to reopen at 10 a.m. Friday.

2:25 p.m. — Other Quincy Medical Group facilities that are closed today:

Sleep Center (tonight)
NuFIT (classes canceled until Saturday)
Barry Affiliate
HQ Eyes
LaBelle Affiliate
Lewistown Affiliate
Pike County Family Practice
Pittsfield Affiliate
Riverside Dermatology
Winchester Family Practice

2:23 p.m. — Mercantile Bank, First Bankers Trust and State Street Bank both closed at 2 p.m. Quincy University is closed as well. However, the men's and women's basketball games will still be played at 5:15 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

2:18 p.m. — The Mount Sterling YMCA will close this evening at 6 p.m., and will delay opening Friday until 7 a.m.

2:15 p.m. — The Adams County Courthouse is still open. Fortunately, it was a light felony docket today.

2 p.m. — From the Associated Press:

Kansas was the epicenter of the winter storm, with parts of the state buried under 14 inches of powdery snow, but winter storm warnings stretched from eastern Colorado through Illinois.

Freezing rain and sleet were forecast for southern Missouri, southern Illinois and Arkansas. St. Louis was expected to get all of the above — a treacherous mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain.
Several accidents were blamed on icy and slushy roadways, including two fatal accidents. Most schools in Kansas and Missouri, and many in neighboring states, were closed. Legislatures shut down in Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Nebraska and Iowa.

"Thundersnow" accompanied the winter storm in parts of Kansas and Missouri, which National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Truett said is the result of an unstable air mass, much like a thunderstorm.

Areas in western Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle also had up to 8 inches of snow by Thursday morning.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency Thursday morning and activated the State Emergency Operations Center. By midmorning Thursday, the snow was coming down so hard that Kansas City International Airport shut down. About 90 flights were also cancelled at Lambert Airport in St. Louis, where sleet and ice began falling late morning.

St. Louis prepared with some uncertainty. Depending on the temperature and the trajectory of the storm, the metro area could get snow, freezing rain, ice, sleet or all or some of the above. Crews were hoping to spread enough salt to keep at least the major roadways moving.

1:57 p.m. — TyAnn Britton, owner of Tranquility Med Spa, said she'd had several last minute cancellations Thursday. "I think most people thought about coming out until they actually got out," Britton said. She's said she's got several die-hard customers who she anticipates will eventually trickle in, but she plans to close up shop and head home as soon as those are complete. "When
they're gone, I'm gone," she said.

1:45 p.m. — Jos. A. Bank was the sole shop open in Maine Center at Sixth and Maine streets. Store Manager Kimberly Meyer said sales had been slow all morning. She was turning off the lights and locking up the store. "We try to be here for people, but it just gets to the point where people need to stay home," Meyer said.

1:40 p.m. — One of managers at Harrison Hy-Vee says lots of part-time employees are calling in saying they can't get to work. Plenty of milk and bread on Harrison HyVee shelves. Employee said they were out of milk earlier today but a shipment came in. However, employee said that new milk shipment is getting low already. 

"We can't even get our carts in (from the parking lot). We can only push 2-3 in at a time," the employee said.

1:23 p.m. — A semi is jackknifed in front of O'Reilly's Auto Parts on U.S. 61 southbound in Hannibal.  Traffic is backed up on McMasters through town. The Missouri Department of Conservation recommends finding an alternate route. For updated information, call 1-888-275-6636.

1:05 p.m. — The Kroc Center is closing at 6 p.m. Thursday. All classes after 3 p.m. are cancelled. A decision regarding facility hours for Friday will be made later Thursday.

A Hannibal man tries to help a driver push a car onto St. Mary's Avenue in Hannibal, but they're not having any luck Thursday afternoon. (H-W Photo/Phil Carlson)