Winter storm drops mix of ice and snow

Thursday, December 7, 2006

The first winter storm of the season hit Barry County hard this past week, covering area roadways with a slick mixture of ice and snow, creating hazardous road conditions and causing power outages in several communities.

After a week of unseason-ably warm temperatures, the mercury began to drop sharply on Thursday. By mid-afternoon, freezing rain turned to ice and then about four inches of snow fell overnight.

All Barry County schools cancelled classes on Thursday and Friday, and Wheaton Schools remained closed on Monday. Power outages were experienced in Seligman, Wheaton and the Fairview areas.

Barry Electric crews were out restoring power at around 4:30 a.m. on Thursday.

"When we knew we had outages, I came to the office and started answering the phone," said Bill Shiveley, manager and chief executive officer of Barry Electric. "I called in extra crews and extra help in the office at 5:30 a.m."

In all, Barry Electric crews responded to 20 reported outages. Of those, 11 involved individual residences and nine were lines or multiple residences. The major outages occurred in the Wheaton and Seligman areas with the longest outage lasting eight and a half hours, Shiveley said.

"When we know we can get power restored in a day, we stay after it and keep after it until it's done," said Shiveley.

His crews worked overtime on Thursday and had all power restored by 10 p.m. that night.

Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) crews from Cassville, Jenkins and Monett were out watching for ice accumulation on roads Wednesday night and pretreating the highways. As it turned out, the rain didn't start freezing on roads until about 8 a.m. Thursday morning.

Bob Cannon, MoDOT regional maintenance supervisor headquartered in Cassville, said the recent storm was one of the harder ones to get off the road.

"We had freezing rain and then freezing sleet, which becomes solid ice," Cannon said. "The snow that fell compacted on the roads and just added to the ice. It took a lot of work and a lot of melting agents to get it off the roads in a reasonable amount of time."

Highway crews were out clearing roads 24 hours a day from Wednesday night through Saturday night, Cannon said.

"We had most of the routes, except for the shaded areas, in pretty good shape by late Saturday afternoon," Cannon said.

In clearing off snow- and ice-covered roads, MoDOT uses a tiered system that is based on traffic volume. The first priority for local road crews is clearing off Highways 37 and 60. From there, crews concentrate on roads that carry over 1,700 vehicles a day. These include Business 37, Business 60, Highway 86 and parts of Highways 248, 76 and W.

"If you can get to one of those roads, you can usually get around okay," Cannon said.

Barry County road crews received high marks from Cannon on their recent efforts.

"I was real proud of my crews," said Cannon. "I think they did an excellent job. It's a lot of responsibility. You've got to get things cleared and make sure people can travel safely. It takes a lot of pride for people to be away from their families and put in those kind of hours."

In preparation for future winter weather, Cannon has ordered in approximately 30 semi-loads of salt to refill his storage facilities.

"It was an extraordinary storm for the first one of the year," Cannon said.

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