By JIM SALTER Associated Press
ST. LOUIS (AP) - Plows and salt trucks struggled to cope with the sheer volume of snow Thursday as a band of bitterly cold weather spread across Missouri, forcing schools to close, causing hundreds of traffic accidents and leaving more than a foot of snow in some areas.
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Making matters worse, forecasters predicted overnight lows of below zero in some parts of the state.
Snowfall varied greatly, from little more than a trace in parts of southern Missouri to huge amounts in mid-Missouri and parts of the St. Louis area. Snowfall totals of nearly 11 inches were reported in north St. Louis County. Parts of St. Charles County had 10 inches. Scattered reports of up to 15 inches were being cited in the northern part of the metro area.
"It was a very narrow band centered directly over Interstate 70," said Jim Sieveking, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service office in suburban St. Louis.
Kansas City and northwest Missouri had 5-8 inches of snow. Columbia had nine inches, Jefferson City eight inches. But areas further north and south had less - Hannibal had three inches, Cape Girardeau a little more than a trace by mid-morning, though more was expected during the day on Thursday.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol reported hundreds of trouble calls - 230 in the St. Louis region alone - by Thursday morning. "Nothing really serious - just slide-offs and small accidents," Cpl. Jeff Wilson said. No injuries had been reported, but there were plenty of headaches.
In St. Louis, police closed an Interstate 64 ramp at Kingshighway on Thursday after more than 20 cars got stuck on the slick, hilly ramp near Barnes-Jewish Hospital. A tractor-trailer jack-knifed on Interstate 270, causing lengthy delays for morning commuters.
Sally Oxenhandler of the Missouri Department of Transportation said that while snowfall amounts varied around the state, the duration of the storm was making it hard for plows and salt trucks to keep up.
"Virtually the entire state is covered in snow," Oxenhandler said. "We're working to try to get highways cleared as best we can."
More than 1,000 schools were closed across the state.
In St. Louis, the snowfall total was approaching a top-10 amount in the recorded history of the region. National Weather Service records show the biggest snow ever in St. Louis was 20.4 inches March 30-31, 1890. No. 10 on the list is an 11.5-inch total on Feb. 16, 1910. By 9 a.m., with snow still falling, parts of St. Louis already had 10 inches - the largest total since the city got 11.7 inches of snow Feb. 24-25, 1993.
Adding to the misery was bitter cold. Temperatures were generally in the 20s during the day, but forecasters were expecting most of the state to be in single digits - or worse - overnight. The forecast for Kirksville in northeast Missouri was for an overnight low of minus-six.
And more snow is likely on the way. Sieveking said additional snow is possible both Friday and Sunday. He said it was too early to predict how much.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)