Emergency responders prepare ahead for weekend ice storm

Emergency responders prepare ahead...

COLUMBIA, Mo. - With freezing rain and sleet in the forecast for mid-Missouri Friday, police and fire departments are already discussing how they're going to be better prepared for the storm.

"We're making progressive steps," said Deputy Chief John Gordon at the department's quarterly meeting with the media Wednesday. "We're going do things a little bit different than we did last time."

Gordon said that may include positioning patrol officers to certain parts of town.

"Driving around is just a recipe for disaster. We don't have any more ability than anybody else," said CPD Chief Ken Burton.

Early morning rain turned into icy roads on Dec. 16 after temperatures didn't reach above freezing as originally anticipated, catching drivers off guard.

According to the Boone County Joint Communications, 336 crashes were reported in the Columbia/Boone County area from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. At one point, CPD had 41 crashes assigned to them with another 25 on hold between them, the Sheriff's Department and the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

The department is asking residents to report non-injury accidents online, rather than calling them in, which clogged up phone lines during the last ice event. Burton said officers again won't be responding to non-injury crashes.

"Be attentive and if you think you see somebody that needs help don't hesitate to call," he said. "But on the other hand, if you see people standing around exchanging information, we don't need another phone call."

The department has also reserved hotel rooms for officers who don't live in Columbia so they don't have to drive on the ice after their shift.

Assistant Chief Brad Fraizer, with the Columbia Fire Department, said they aren't planning to do anything different for the anticipated ice. He said the department will likely station a chief officer at the 911 center to help triage calls.

CPD, CFD and other emergency responders are meeting at the Emergency Operations Center Thursday afternoon to discuss more detailed plans for Friday's weather.

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