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Wintry Weather Forces Closures

by Rachel Dickerson | February 18, 2021 at 6:53 a.m.

Wintry weather moved into McDonald County last week, forcing the closure of public facilities.

Freezing drizzle began on Feb. 7 into Feb. 8, prompting the closure of county schools. All schools implemented the district's AMI (alternative methods of instruction) program, with teachers providing online instruction from Feb. 8 through Feb. 11. AMI hours were limited to 36, and so a snow day was observed on Friday. On Monday, schools were closed for Presidents Day, and Tuesday was a snow day.

A second round of icy weather started the night of Feb. 9. Following this, the McDonald County Courthouse closed on Feb. 10, along with Pineville City Hall, Noel City Hall, and the Pineville License Office. Crowder College in Jane was also closed for several days due to road conditions, and the McDonald County Library was closed Feb. 8 through Friday and, while open on Saturday, was closed for Presidents Day and for snow on Tuesday. Tyson in Noel and Simmons in Southwest City also canceled shifts this week.

The courthouse has been closed since Feb. 10, said Gregg Sweeten, McDonald County Emergency Management Agency director. The last time the courthouse was closed that long because of the weather was in 2007 when a huge ice storm hit, Sweeten added.

Cold temperatures also forced county officials to rethink the covid-19 vaccine's administration procedure. A ballfield in Anderson provided the perfect setup for those receiving their second shot, with plenty of space for social distancing and administering the vaccine, he said. Officials "bought as many heaters as we could" for nurses and those giving the shots, he said.

However, Thursday and Friday's events were moved indoors to the First Baptist Church in Anderson, he said.

By Friday, local meteorologists and National Weather Service officials were warning of an impending winter storm with several inches of snow predicted. Officials said the snow event would begin on Sunday.

On late Friday afternoon, customers rushed to the Walmart Super Center in Jane to grab last-minute needed items. As customers made their way up and down the aisles, grabbing milk and other products, the egg cooler sat completely empty.

Snow arrived Sunday, along with dangerously low wind chills.

Officials with the National Weather Service said the area received several inches of snow, with wind chills dipping as low as 25 below zero.

By Sunday, officials with New-Mac Electric Company asked customers to limit their usage of major appliances between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m., and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., after the system reached an all-time high for demand.

Deferring usage during those peak times could help maintain future electric rates, officials said.

Liberty Utilities Central officials asked their customers to limit their consumption from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. through Tuesday.

Customers were asked to roll back thermostats slightly to conserve energy, as well as postpone nonessential energy use, turn off nonessential lights and turn off and unplug computers, chargers and televisions during periods of non-use.

Meanwhile, crews in Noel and Pineville stayed busy with multiple wrecks, slide-offs and hill blockages last week.

"We were hammered with different things," Sweeten said. Semi-tractor-trailer trucks that could not get uphill then caused other traffic hang-ups, he said.

This week, however, Pineville has only experienced one minor wreck. Since the weather turned much colder and the snow came in, people have been staying at home, he said.

A great deal of stress has been put on road crews, who have worked tirelessly to improve roads, he said.

Most motorists can get traction on snow, but when the ice melt is utilized, it can turn the snow to water, which then will refreeze. That can provide a worse scenario, he said.

As road crews do what they can to service the roads, others have stepped up to help how they can.

Several area churches are now providing warming areas, he said. And local officials are committed to helping anyone who needs help.

Sweeten stressed that residents can call his office, the McDonald County Sheriff's Office or their local police office for help.

"We will do whatever we can to help you get through this," Sweeten said.

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