JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — About 600 Missouri National Guard members have been activated by Gov. Mike Parson to help with this winter storm.
From midnight Wednesday until Thursday afternoon, there have been more than 1,500 stranded drivers on Missouri roadways. Some of those motorists might be surprised to see the National Guard pull up to help, but the Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) said in a storm like this, those members are needed.
“We’ve done pretty well so far, but we still have a ways to go,” Captain John Hotz with MSHP said Thursday.
Day two of winter weather was filled with crashes and stalled vehicles along major interstates, but MSHP said it’s better than expected.
“You look at the numbers that we’ve seen for this storm so far, they are drastically reduced from what we’ve seen in years past, and I think getting the message out that people need to avoid traveling if possible was the key,” Hotz said.
Besides stranded drivers, the state patrol has also responded to more than 2,600 calls for service and 556 crashes with 35 injuries and 1 fatality.
Hotz said most of the calls the patrol has received are for stranded drivers that either have slid off the roadway or got stuck in the snow.
“We don’t want people to be out there for long periods of time without food and water, so in the event that we had anything like that take place, we had a plan in place,” Hotz said.
Earlier this month, hundreds of cars were stuck on I-95 for hours after a winter storm hit the Richmond, VA., area.
“The National Guard troops can come out and help us with stranded motorists and the folks having trouble,” Hotz said. “The last thing we want is a situation like what happened on the east coast on Interstate 95.”
That plan includes the Missouri National Guard, activated by Parson Tuesday evening when he declared the State of Emergency. The 600 Guard members are stationed at armories off of Interstates 70 and 44.
“We are working with them to help communicate and help get them to the areas that we need assistance,” Hotz said. “With the sheer number that we’ve having, they are also helping out with getting to some locations that with a patrol car or an explorer might not be able to get to.”
Hotz said an example of this was in central Missouri earlier in the week.
“We had a call out on a gravel-type roadway there, and we were having trouble getting to that citizen. So the National Guard was able to with their Humvee-type vehicle to get out there and get assistance to those folks,” Hotz said. “Once they are assigned to this detail, then they are working with our troopers like out of the troop location.”
But once the snow stops Thursday night, the concern, is wind.
“We also know with the wind that we may see some snowdrifts, so once you get those areas uncovered, there still might be some drifting problems there so avoid traveling, if at all possible,” Hotz said.
He credits Missourians, for heeding the warning, causing less havoc on the roadways.
“If you look out here on the roadways, there is not a lot of traffic out there so they have gotten that message, they have heeded that message and I think that’s one of the things keeping those numbers down,” Hotz said.
The state has utilized the National Guard before for major snowstorms. Under the State of Emergency, the Guard is activated until the order terminates which isn’t until March 3.
Hotz also encouraged drivers to use the MoDOT travelers’ map before heading out on the road, if they had to absolutely go somewhere.