Although the snow appears to be poor timing, it is arriving on a Saturday morning where less traffic is on the road during the morning peak. Unlike the system that hit last Friday, this one appears is not expected to linger around the area.  Winter Weather Advisories have been put in effect for this section of 270, but about 45-50 miles north of here there are Winter Storm Warnings in effect.

In the hours prior to the changeover, temperatures are expected to be borderline and therefore an earlier than expected changeover cannot be ruled out.

The mentalities with this storm:

  • The snow will be the dry powder, not the heavy wet slushy stuff.
  • Strong winds will blow and drift the snow around, but blizzard conditions are not expected.
  • Flash freeze will be a major concern, especially first thing Saturday morning.
  • Temperatures will drop but will not bottom out.
  • A secondary system that models are not effectively picking up on may sneak into the area.  This is being talked about by the forecasters in the Paducah media market but not necessarily in St. Louis.  UPDATE – some of the forecasters in St. Louis are now admitting a bust and at least one has gone on social media with a concession post.
  • Snowfall totals will either be all or nothing but if it hits, expect up to 6 inches.  (Yes, that is on 1% odds on the WPC and I’m boldly going with that in the event of that secondary system.) 
  • New mentality as of 6 AM Saturday – most if not all the snow will miss the area.  The other mentalities with the system are still on track and the biggest risk is now the flash freeze.

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freezingdrizzleWith temperatures either at or near freezing and mist developing late Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, the National Weather Service has issued a Winter Weather Advisory for this section of 270 that will go through the morning peak.

This, in turn, has caused the risk threat to be upgraded from Medium to High for the second straight morning, and the decision at 1 AM Tuesday to upgrade that Tuesday AM peak was easily justified between 6:30 and 6:45 that morning in the westbound lanes near the 203 interchange:

Mist was falling with temperatures in the upper 20s at the time of that incident – despite that, the NWS did not go with any advisories even though Winter Weather Advisories were in effect just north of Quincy and Dense Fog advisories in effect west of Columbia, MO.

So what is the mentality of the Wednesday AM event? Unlike Tuesday, temperatures are expected to remain borderline. With the car thermometer around 31 or 32 (although these things are not nearly as accurate), ample moisture on the ground from snow melt, and a cold ground, any moisture would cause some form of advection fog or an inversion may form in the event of a calm wind. With the high temperature on Tuesday being lower than expected (the freeze-thaw mentality was expected all week but has not developed), the weather forecasters are freaking out of the possibility of black ice and mist causing more problems.

The main mentality is that the freezing mist and fog will occur along and north of 270 but the higher odds will be along and north of Route 16. The freeze line will be too close to call due to widespread uniform temperatures, but if it did dip below freezing it would do it right before sunrise.

There is more questionable weather for Wednesday evening into Thursday morning that is also too close to call regarding borderline temperatures but that is too far out to discuss at the time.

wb270-011119

At least four incidents were reported between Route 3 and Lilac and several more further into North County during the winter storm that came in at a poor time on Friday afternoon and lingered into Sunday afternoon, bringing everything from mist to 11 inches of snow.  Despite the issues, the gridlock avoided the 270 mainline but other places in St. Louis on the Missouri side of the river did not fare as well on Friday evening.

First, here a few scenes that happened on alternate routes and caused problems that lasted into Saturday morning, caused by tractor trailers failing to navigate the hills in the peak traffic:

When Cantore shows up you know you are screwed.

Note to everyone: that 6% grade on 44 just west of St. Louis is no joke when snow happens.

All the incidents that shut down sections of 40, 44, 55, and 70 happened on or near a hill.

Now what could cause the gridlock to happen, there are many causes, and everyone can learn the positives from something like this to learn in the future.

Why did this section of 270 avoided the gridlock even though it is just as hilly?

    1.  Employers and commuters know that mistakes that drivers make on this section of 270 almost always has a consequence, and in some cases a minor mistake can force everyone to go through Alton or back into downtown St. Louis.  (Compare this to any other major traffic artery in St. Louis where it has to be an epic fail to cause serious consequences.)
    2. The majority of the major employers along here utilize shift work, often having work hours that have employees leaving work as early as 2 PM.  (The employers along Highway 40, on the other hand, often involved salaried employees that are required to stay until 5 PM.)
    3. Schools in the Riverbend and in North County were dismissing between 12 PM to 1:30 PM, just before the start of the snow.  In addition, the same schools were canceling or rescheduling after school events.
    4. The general public was very complacent when it came to the impacts of the poor timing snow event, and the moment that the first tractor trailer failed to navigate the hill it was virtually game over for anyone utilizing certain sections of interstate in St. Louis.
    5. Truckers that were in the Pontoon Beach area were opting to hunker down there as opposed to taking the risk elsewhere.  When the only known epic fail on the 270 mainline happens all the way to the east in Pierron, and there was not a lot of truck traffic on the traffic cameras.  This was in stark contrast to what happened on 44 and 70.

There is another system that is moving in next weekend.  Right now, no talk will be made about it.  Don’t believe the hype right now as it is not accurate to pinpoint a system 5 days out.

 

Friday afternoon into Saturday could be one of the biggest snowfall events along this section of 270 in 5 years as up to 10 inches of snow may fall, with local amounts going up to 15 inches. Although weekend snow events are easier to deal with, the main problem is that the snow is expected to start at a bad time and that has caused the admins go with a high risk for the evening peak.

The timing of the event will likely going to keep kids in school on Friday but a few districts have opted for early dismissal in North County. The schools in the Riverbend area have not made any decisions as of the time this post has been made.

The main mentalities with this system:

  1. Snowfall will be heavy
  2. Mist and sleet is not ruled out, nor is the system coming in earlier than expected.
  3. Drifting of the snow is possible but blizzard conditions not expected to develop.
  4. The snow is expected to be the heavy wet stuff that can make hills very difficult to navigate.

 
With a Winter Storm Warning in effect until early Sunday morning, please make wise decisions especially during the peak period on Friday.

Approximately 16:05 Wednesday, at least one vehicle was involved in an incident and ended up in the median. That vehicle subsequently catches fire and becomes fully involved.

The incident caused all four lanes (two in each direction) to close for an hour as crews from Riverview and Spanish Lake fought the fire and the borderline temperatures as the evening peak started. Eastbound would back up all the way to Lindbergh, and westbound would back up to Route 3. It would not be until at least 17:30 before the incident would clear.

Earlier on Saturday morning (when one admin was asleep and another was busy), there was an alleged robbery at the Wal-Mart in Wood River and a subsequent chase that started on 255 at 111 and then went west on 270. With alleged speeds reaching 100 MPH, the suspects exited at Bellefontaine where the chase was terminated in the area or Riverview and Hall. (Cannot embed that original Facebook post so I had to share that post on the Facebook page.)

As of this time, the suspects are not in custody and are considered armed and dangerous.

2oya1c

Despite less than stellar weather conditions expected well into the weekend IDOT is planning to make westbound traffic very miserable starting after the peak period Friday morning at 09:00 with one lane being closed on the river bridge. If this mainline closure does happen, do not expect it to reopen until the peak period on Monday morning.

To make matters worse, MoDOT has made the decision to close a section of an alternative route for a portion of this weekend as well:

The best alternate routes include going through Alton and I-64. I don’t feel like sugarcoating about that pathetic mainline pavement on 255 south of 55/70 right now, especially with the earlier than normal pattern of freeze-thaw weather.

Despite the fact poor weather (but well above freezing) is expected for most of this weekend, IDOT has announced weekend lane closures in both directions on the river bridge.  Westbound begins as soon as the morning peak ends on Friday morning, and eastbound begins later on Friday evening. Only one lane will be closed in each direction but it will be enough to things miserable for westbound drivers all day Friday especially during the afternoon peak – and to add to the misery is the fact Friday is the busiest day of the week.

It is also clear that they are bold enough to pull off the weekend closures on the same weekend that MoDOT is closing multiple mainline lanes on I-64 and making the ramp from I-44 EB to I-64 EB off limits

That is not the only I-64 closure but this one is only to last a short time on Sunday morning

Because of the construction and the fact MoDOT has ruined one of the options for an alternate route this weekend to some extent, plan on a lot of delays (up to an hour if you are going westbound between 15:00 to 19:00 Friday). It has not exactly been safe to use I-70 due to the recent violence along or near that highway (complete with a police shooting that allegedly occurred last weekend), and the King Bridge is off limits until next fall. The 255 mainline between 55/70 and JB Bridge is in such shitty shape that it makes you want to stay on the other main routes through St. Louis, it makes the river bridge look perfect


Below was just one of too many big potholes

If you must go down 255 to get around, stay out of the right lane unless you are about to exit. The 270 mainline looks nothing compared to that, not even on the river bridge.miserycat

The anything goes mentality of the St. Louis winter struck on Sunday evening as the storm approaches, first by opening with this warning (it was highly unanticipated that severe weather was going to be forecasted with that odds at less than 5%)

That cluster of storms caused confirmed tree damage in both North County and in the Riverbend area with footage being shown on Fox 2.

Put that in perspective

That tornado warning narrowly missed a county that was under a Winter Weather Advisory by less than 5 miles and it was less than 50 miles between the tornado warning and blizzard warning.

A few hours later, snow starts to fall and since it decides to linger around until 3 in the morning before tapering off, the decision for high risk for the AM peak was made around midnight. It was made justifiable around 5 in the morning although the majority of the incidents were further east.

When one of the admins must go through this area on the way to work and reports something near 55, it was a good clue that the mainline was very slick. Up to an inch of snow had fallen in this general area based on the snow reports

It takes little snow or ice at the worst time of the day to cause problems:

Look at the very bottom of the image.

Just for good measure, there was an incident near 203, and a few more in North County

grandma snow

Once again, an unusual November snow storm is taking aim. Unlike the first two events this month, this one is expected to hold its very worst to the north and west of here, but keep us on the fringes. No advisories or warnings have been issued for this section of 270 BUT not even 60 miles north of here and 90 miles west of here it is in effect. Kansas City has been placed in a Blizzard Warning so any trucker going westbound must take special precautions before heading out. (Personal note: Chiefs have their bye week so there won’t be any NFL related traffic near Arrowhead Stadium.)

Locally we are expecting a Wind Advisory to be issued but that has not occurred. The main threat here will be the strong winds and the WPC has a 40% chance for 1 inch of snow. It does not take much snow to cause problems and whatever falls will be blowing around. A track of the storm system just 30-40 miles southeast than first predicted can prove to be a game changer. The residual moisture may linger into the morning peak period, so it has to be monitored as well.

UPDATE 11/25/18 at 15:18

As expected, the NWS has issued Wind Advisories for this section of 270.  It has also issued Winter Storm Advisories just 45 miles north and west of here.