Unexpected snowfall hits Barry County

Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Rickylee Swearingen Jr., 2, of Cassville, bundled up and played outside his home in the snow on Monday. Contributed photo

More photos from the snow days this week may be found in a gallery at: http://www.cassville-democrat.com/gallery/32055

Residents do their best to respond to extreme temps and snowfall

What was supposed to be a 'light 'dusting' turned into a bitterly cold snowfall event wielding more than 6 inches of snow in portions of Barry County beginning Sunday proving that you can't always trust the weatherman.

Barry County residents got a shock this week when nearly eight inches of snowfall hit, leaving them wondering just how much they can trust the weatherman, who reported only a "light dusting." This wintery scene was taken off Highway 76 in Ridgley near Farm Road 1027. Contributed photo

Combined with only single-digit temperatures for the highs, the severe weather conditions put local schools, businesses and events on pause, and kept residents cooped up indoors.

Cassville resident Amanda Breyer-Dotson said the last three days since the snow hit have been hectic trying to adapt to stay warm, and take care of her animals, too.

"We live about three miles outside the city limits on a small farm," she said. "We have baby chicks, rabbits and an outside cat. Even though we have central heat, we also stocked up on wood for our fireplace as the electric gets high in cold temps."

Domestic animals had to find ways to adapt to the frigid temps, like these rabbits, belonging to Cassville resident Amanda Breyer-Dotson, who said that during cold weather, rabbits burrow underground and only come out to eat or drink, which in this case, the fresh water brought to them froze within 20 minutes. Contributed photo

The city met the weather event head-on, sending out crews early Sunday to clear the main thoroughfares.

"They're not always spot on," said David Brock, Cassville public works director, of weather forecasters. "We worked a bit Sunday, but Monday was the shocker it just kept snowing and snowing. And the cold temperatures really compounded things. We had crews that worked until about 6 p.m. Monday night, but then it got so cold, the plows weren't penetrating into the snow banks anymore, and the surface treatment doesn't do much when it gets that cold."

With school closed on Monday due to the Martin Luther King holiday, students were already home, but the continued severe weather brought closings on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Barry County pets had it especially rough this week with the frigid temps, and their owners had a hard time supplying fresh water for them, with it freezing within minutes. Contributed photo

"School was closed Monday, so that helped," said Steve Walensky, city administrator on Tuesday. "I appreciate that our citizens stayed home and safe while we did our best to try to attack the snow as it came down. The public works team was in full action with their equipment trying to stay ahead of the snowfall. At one point, it was coming down so hard and fast, I watched a plow go by, then couldn't see it. They've been pulling multiple shifts to stay ahead of this thing. We shut down from midnight until 5 a.m. I appreciate the hard work those guys put in to try to make the roads passable. The side roads are still a little tricky, but the main thoroughfares are in good shape."

Tuesday's high was only 11 degrees, hitting 0 degrees that evening, with a high of 29 degrees on Wednesday the highest in four days. Even the sunshine didn't bring the frigid temps up much.

As hard as the 13-man department worked to keep the streets cleared, it couldn't prevent some mishaps with the combination of snow and just-over-zero temps.

Residents woke up to find their vehicles completely carpeted with several inches of snow this week, leaving them scrambling to find their snowscrapers from last year after experiencing a mild winter season thus far. Contributed photo

"We had a bunch of slide-offs, including some of our trucks a couple of times," Brock said. "No doubt some folks may wonder where we are when they don't see a snow plow, but when that snow is coming down, we have to focus on the main routes and hills; you have to take care of those critical elements first.

Caring for animals is another challenge in such cold temperatures.

Dotson prepared by keeping her water faucets on a constant stream to prevent water lines from freezing.

This wintery road scene was taken on Highway 76, between Exeter and Ridgley. Contributed photo

"One of the worst things about the weather is hauling out buckets of water to keep the animals watered," she said. "We have been watering them three times a day because the water has been freezing within 20 minutes. "We even went to the pond to break the ice so the horses could get a drink, and the pond was frozen."

"The rabbits prepare by burrowing down holes to hide in and only come out to eat and drink, and the baby chicks did great with a heat lamp on them."

As far as inside the house, her family enjoyed some time off from their daily routine.

"Inside, we had lots of family time as my husband didn't go to work and we got a lot of much-needed cleaning done and watched lots of Pureflix shows," she said. "But being inside all day for three days isn't good because all you want to do is eat."

Residents can't get much relief until Thursday, when the expected temperature if the weatherman can be trusted this time will be 44 degrees for a high, with sunshine, giving the ice and snow a chance to finally melt.

"With some sun on the roads, it will help, but we really are not looking for any relief until Thursday, but we'll get some good melting by then," Walensky said.

As is consistent with Missouri's characteristic, zigzag weather patterns, the severe weather will wrap up with a nearly 60-degree weekend, with expected temps Friday at 52 degrees, and Saturday, at 55.

"I just appreciate that everyone stayed home and warm when this snow event came on," Walensky said.

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