ST. LOUIS (AP) — Heavy snow combined with strong winds and bitter cold created a dangerous winter mix Sunday over much of Missouri, prompting everything from churches to tourist attractions and even the St. Louis region's sole ski resort to shut down amid warnings that only those who absolutely need to venture out should do so.
Snow that began in parts of the state Saturday night picked up intensity after dawn Sunday, and several inches of snow were on the ground by midafternoon — up to 13 inches in parts of suburban St. Louis and officially 10.3 inches in the city. Other totals ranged from 10.5 inches in Rolla to 7 inches in Springfield, 4-6 inches in mid-Missouri and 3 to 4 inches in suburban Kansas City.
The Missouri Department of Transportation reported most major roadways were covered and clearing them was a challenge for two reasons: The wind was blowing cleared snow back onto the pavement, and it was so cold the salt used to melt ice and snow wasn't very effective.
MoDOT encouraged people to stay in unless absolutely necessary. The conditions were so bad they were a danger even to MoDOT workers driving the plows and trucks, spokeswoman Marie Elliott said.
"If it gets to the point where it's no longer safe, we will consider suspending operations," she said.
St. Louis was at a virtual standstill on Saturday, with the Gateway Arch, St. Louis Art Museum, the Fox Theatre and St. Louis Zoo part of the seemingly endless list of entities that closed. Shopping malls and movie theaters closed, too. Even Hidden Valley Ski Resort, the region's only ski area, shut down.
Even the U.S. District Court in St. Louis took the exceptional move of announcing it would be closed on Monday.
The homeless were a special concern in such cold temperatures. A special shelter set up by the city of St. Louis at a recreation center drew 124 homeless by Sunday morning, and will remain open through the cold snap, said William Siedhoff, director of the city's Human Services.
Ray Radlich is among the volunteers at New Life Evangelistic Center, another St. Louis homeless shelter, who are braving the cold as part of search teams that seek out the homeless and get them to shelters.
"We find people a lot of different places — bus stops, camped out," Radlich said. "It would be easy to stay home, but we're trying to save lives. That's what it's all about."
Among those Radlich and his team brought in was 55-year-old Garcia Salvaje, who has been without a home since his apartment burned last week. Salvaje, a veteran, had surgery three months ago for a spinal problem. The cold makes the pain from his still-healing back intense.
"I get all achy and pained all the way up my feet, to my legs, up my spine," Salvaje said.
The Rev. Larry Rice, who operates New Life, said some homeless simply don't want to come in, but the volunteers insist that they do.
"Some of them are still holding out in the cold," Rice said. "That is their home. They don't want to give up that independence."
Sunday started with temperatures in the 20s and 30s and they dropped throughout the day, even as the wind picked up, reaching gusts of 25 mph and more. National Weather Service meteorologist Butch Dye said that during the pre-dawn hours of Monday, temperatures across much of Missouri will be below zero, perhaps as low as minus 10 with a wind chill of minus 25, maybe colder.
"It's just a dangerous cold," Dye said.
The weather changed swiftly. Saturday's highs were in the 40s, and many people used that opportunity to prepare for the worst. St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Cottleville, Mo., near St. Louis, had lines of cars waiting to get into 5 p.m. Mass. Good thing, too: The church, one of the largest in Missouri, was closed Sunday.
Grocery stores sold out of the essentials before Sunday's weather onslaught.
"The problem is the bread is sold out. We're out of milk. We sold out of chips, chicken wings, some meats," Issa Arar of Salama Supermarket in St. Louis said.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol reported several weather-related accidents Sunday, but there were no immediate reports of fatal wrecks. Lambert Airport had more than 230 flight cancellations. Things were better at Kansas City International Airport, though there were a couple of dozen flights delayed or canceled, according to the airport's website.
Dye said the only good news was that brutal conditions should be short-lived. Snow was expected to end by Sunday evening, and while the cold will remain for a couple of days, it should give way to milder weather by mid-week, with much of the state seeing highs in the 30s by Wednesday.