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Missouri residents told to stay indoors to avoid freeze

Updated: 2014-01-06T21:19:56Z

The Associated Press

The snow has moved on but dangerous cold settled across Missouri on Monday amid warnings that even a few minutes of exposure for people and pets could be deadly.

Wind gusts of 20 mph and stronger only made matters worse. By 9 a.m. the temperature in St. Louis had plummeted to minus-8 degrees, the city's coldest reading since February 1996, National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Truett said. Blustery winds made it feel 30 degrees below zero in Hannibal, Troy and Wentzville.

The cold was so dangerous that teams were out looking for homeless people and taking them to shelters. So many homeless people arrived at a city-operated shelter in St. Louis that 80 had to be bused to other shelters, St. Louis city spokeswoman Heather Wegman said.

Butch Dye, a NWS meteorologist, urged anyone who had to go outside to cover all exposed areas.

"We are talking 10 to 15 minutes before frostbite exposure," he said. "If you get stuck outside in a broken down car and you're not properly dressed, it could be a disaster."

Mike Mooney, a postal carrier for two decades, was wearing multiple layers as he walked his route in St. Louis County. He brought along hand- and foot-warmers and sunglasses to protect his eyes from the snowy glare.

Carrying all that extra weight had an extra benefit: "By the time you get done at the end of the day you feel like you've had a pretty good workout and run a marathon," Mooney said.

More than 250 warming centers were open around Missouri, said Ryan Hobart of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

St. Louis city leaders warned that any pets found outside would be confiscated and the owners could face animal abuse charges.

The utility Ameren Missouri was scrambling to restore power to about 1,400 customers, mostly south of St. Louis.

The bitter cold came a day after heavy snow blanketed much of Missouri. The St. Louis region got the worst of it — 10.8 inches in the city and up to 15 inches in the suburbs. Road conditions throughout the state had improved since Sunday but still treacherous, with several highways and interstates covered. Clearing roads was a challenge because it was so cold that salt was less effective, and the wind was whipping the fine, powdery snow back onto the cleared pavement.

Two road deaths in Missouri were blamed on the weather. The Missouri State Highway Patrol said a 1-year-old Easton boy, Kiber Williams, died after the car he was in crashed head-on with a snowplow near St. Joseph on Monday. In St. Louis, a driver was killed when his or her car apparently slid on ice on Interstate 44 and collided with a tractor trailer. The victim's identity wasn't disclosed.

The wrecks were among dozens handled by the Highway Patrol since the snowstorm hit.

Chris Hannar, MoDOT's maintenance building supervisor in St. Charles, wore a full facemask as she worked outdoors Monday.

Hannar said the cold weather was hard on equipment.

"We've had to replace a lot of blades on the plows," she said.

The combination of snow and cold prompted thousands of school closings across Missouri. U.S. District Court was shut down in St. Louis. Many government operations in the St. Louis area also did not open.

Travel by air was a challenge. Lambert Airport in St. Louis reported around 90 canceled flights, many of them bound for or arriving from the East Coast, which was also socked by winter weather in recent days. Kansas City International had 26 cancellations by midmorning.

A gradual warm-up was expected to begin Tuesday, though more snow was expected Wednesday.

"It certainly doesn't look like anything like yesterday, but we could get an inch or two of new snow," Truett said.

A break in the weather should arrive after that. Truett said that by the weekend, Missouri should get sunny skies with high and low temperatures in the 40s.

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