From staff reports
JOPLIN, Mo. —
In the battle of the seasons, spring appears to be getting the upper hand over winter — at least for now.
Joplin dodged the worst of a rare spring snowstorm on Thursday, but areas to the east, including Springfield, were not as lucky. Travelers heading east today could encounter slick conditions, especially on bridge floors and overpasses.
Eric Wise, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service forecast office in Springfield, said late Thursday: “Joplin should receive a dusting of snow at most from this storm. But there could be light freezing drizzle overnight. That could create a thin glaze of ice on elevated surfaces.”
But Joplin is not out of the woods just yet. A second storm is expected to affect the region Saturday night into Sunday, producing thunderstorms and rain Saturday night before changing over to snow.
Wise said an accumulation from that storm is possible, but that it is more likely to happen north of Joplin.
Snow-removal crews were ready to roll on Thursday as a precautionary measure.
Angela Eden, spokeswoman with the Missouri Department of Transportation office in Springfield, said district crews on Wednesday afternoon began attaching plows and salt spreaders to state trucks.
She said some crews came in about 4 a.m. Thursday just in case the storm struck sooner and harder than anticipated. When no early onslaught of sleet and snow materialized, crews were put in a holding pattern until the precipitation began arriving in the afternoon.
“When we see that things are starting to freeze on the road surface, then our folks will do whatever they deem is appropriate, whether it’s plowing, spreading salt on the roads, or a combination of both,” Eden said.
Information MoDOT was receiving through the National Weather Service and a private forecasting source was that the brunt of the storm would move in a southeasterly direction, with 2 to 4 inches of snow predicted along each side of a line from Butler to El Dorado Springs, Bolivar, Fair Grove, Marshfield and Seymour.
Eden said the extreme southwest portion of Missouri, including Joplin, was expected to remain in the warmest part of the storm, where there would be sleet and freezing rain and possibly a little snow, but not much in terms of accumulation.
That forecast was holding up by 3 p.m. Thursday with no accumulation of snow in Joplin, although the temperature dropped about 4 degrees the next hour, prompting some concern among city crews that travel across bridges might become a slick proposition overnight.
“We have a second shift coming on at 7:30 tonight (Thursday) that will be here all night long if the streets do get bad,” said Dean Smith, the city of Joplin’s infrastructure superintendent.
He said the city would be watching the bridges closely since their elevated decks freeze over before the streets in general.
Eden said some MoDOT crews also would be out Thursday night in the event road conditions became worse.
“We are playing it by ear,” she said. “We think it should push out by midnight or so.”
THE CITY OF JOPLIN uses salt to treat ice on bridges, and a mix of salt and sand on the streets.