he wind screeched, the trees cracked, and the town felt deserted. It was January 2007. and the residents of Maryville were trapped in their homes as a winter storm, that totaled $352.9 million in damages statewide and killed 14 people in Missouri, brought inches of ice to the area, covering buildings, homes, trees, power lines, and roads.
Many of the town’s residents lost power and sought safety and heat in local community buildings. The ice storm of 2007 is an event that people will tell their grandchildren about, and some forecasters are saying this winter might be another story that will be passed on.
The Farmers’ Almanac predicted earlier this fall that this coming winter will bring shivering and shoveling. The worst weather is predicted to be in January and February, specifically the first week of each month.
Another factor that could affect the forecast for this winter is the expected El Nino, a mild tropical weather disturbance, which will hit Southern states and bring more precipitation in our area.
However, in the last couple months, other sources have disputed those predictions. Whether or not this season will bring a storm like 2007, questions arise about what protocols and plans are in place for when winter storms hit and how Northwest Missouri citizens should prepare for them. And one of the earliest measurable snowfalls in years blanketed the area two weekends before Thanksgiving this year, leaving many to wonder what lies ahead.
Maryville School Superintendent Larry Linthacum has had many years of experience handling snow days, early out days, and bus route changes associated with winter weather.
“Student safety is the most important factor. I am confident of the process we use to make decisions about when to cancel or delay school,” Linthacum said.
On days when bad weather is forecast, he leaves his home around 4:30 a.m. and will stop by the school bus station, talk to MODOT, and consult other schools in the area to access what the conditions are like.
He then checks the forecast for the near future to see if the weather will continue to get worse or improve. Linthacum says there are built in snow days to accommodate school cancelations.
The city of Maryville and Maryville Public Safety have different protocols when winter weather hits. The Maryville Street Department designates Emergency Snow Routes, which are city streets that have to be cleared of vehicles during snowstorms to make room for salt trucks and plows.
The Maryville Department of Public Safety tows vehicles that remain on the streets.
Public Works Director C.E. Gooddall and Street Superintendent Jay Cacek say the most helpful thing residents can do to aid in the snow removal and street clean-up process is to get their cars off the street. Cacek and his crew have roughly 80 miles of roads to treat when winter storms hit. During the ice storm, Cacek put in a 32-hour shift to help get the roads cleared of snow and treated so Maryville residents could drive safely on city roads.
Gooddall and Cacek say that they have already purchased the BIOMELT salt for this year, since there have been shortages and drastic price increases in years past. This new product is safer for the roads and melts better. When winter storms take out trees and power lines, aside from just plowing snow and treating ice, Cacek and his crew get the trees and debris out of the road to clear the roads for residents.
Although trees that fall in private property can’t be taken care of by the Street Department, Gooddall advises against taking a DIY approach to removing tree branches.
“Don’t go out there and mess with fallen trees, because there could be power lines caught in them. It is best to call a contractor to safely remove it and take care of it,” Gooddall says.
Christy Forney, Nodaway County Emergency Management Director, is in charge of contacting the Public Works department, local schools, and other departments to coordinate severe weather response. Forney says that the biggest advantage to handling winter storms over summer storms is that experts can predict them earlier, giving people more time to prepare.
Weather forecasters predicted the Ice Storm of 2007 far in advance, so the different departments of crisis response had more opportunities to meet and delegate responsibilities.
“The Ice Storm of 2007 effected 13 counties, so we were able to get help from the National Guard with conducting door to door well-being checks and debris removal. The Red Cross wasn’t able to get to us since so many counties were affected, but luckily local businesses had power, so we were able to provide food to a local shelter for people to go to,” Forney says.
Forney says that the most important lesson the Ice Storm of 2007 taught Missourians is that people should always be prepared and never wait until the last minute to get the necessities needed to survive a winter storm.
The Missouri Health Department has compiled a “ready in three” checklist to prepare for severe weather. These three steps include creating a plan for yourself and your family, preparing a kit for your home and car, and listening to information about what to do and where to go during the disaster or emergency.
With winter storms specifically, it is the most important to prepare kits for your home and car. A kit should have water, non-perishable food, flash lights, blankets, extra money, first-aid supplies, a battery-powered radio, clothes, and a flare.
Whether or not this winter will go down in the books like the winter of 2007 remains to be seen, but city officials and department heads are confident in their preparation measures for whatever this winter may bring. If Missouri residents take steps ahead of time to prepare for severe winter weather, they will be able to enjoy peace of mind and a safe and happy winter season with their loved ones.