By JIM SALTER
(ST. LOUIS, AP) — What a difference a day makes: A day after much of Missouri basked in spring-like weather, the reality of the pending winter set in on Thursday with the arrival of bitter cold and a worrisome mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain.
Most of southern Missouri was under winter weather warnings, with up to 8 inches of snow possible by Friday evening.
Even more problematic: Sleet and freezing rain accumulations of up to a quarter-inch were expected in areas south of Interstate 44 before the snow began, creating a strong potential for downed power lines and very slick driving conditions.
“Certainly power outages are going to be a real threat,” said Scott Truett, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in St. Louis. As for driving, snow on top of ice “is a very bad combination,” Truett said.
Adding to the Show-Me State’s woes was the frigid cold. Highs were mostly expected to reach only into the 20s or low 30s, a sharp decline from highs in the 60s in many places just 24 hours earlier. St. Louis reached 69 degrees on Wednesday; afternoon temperatures on Thursday expected to be 40 degrees colder.
Forecasters expect the cold snap to last into next week, Truett said.
“We’ll be running some 20 degrees below normal,” he said.
Sleet, ice and snow were already falling over much of central and southern Missouri on Thursday morning. The northern tier of the state was spared and expected to see little, if any, precipitation, Truett said.
The Missouri Department of Transportation said roads remained mostly clear across southern Missouri. A few accidents were blamed on slippery roads, but there were no immediate reports of serious injuries or fatalities.
Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Tim Hull advised drivers to take it easy, especially since ice on the roads may not be obvious.
In St. Louis, sleet surprised morning commuters — the foul weather wasn’t expected for several hours.
Officials with the St. Louis Health Department urged all city residents to keep their homes at a minimum of 60 degrees, and to dress in layers inside and out if need be. The city also opened its first cold-weather shelter of the season. It was expected to remain open at least through the weekend.
This round of wintry weather could be immediately followed by another. Truett said the current system moves out of the state by Friday night, but a second arrives Saturday night and Sunday. He said it is too early to predict what precipitation, or how much, it will bring.