I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas Holiday!
I've been out of the storm center since Thursday of last week, fortunate enough to have some time off around Christmas. So, my family and I did the same thing that many of you did. We hit the road, headed for our native territory of northwest Missouri -- St. Joseph, MO, to be exact.
Of course, it was wonderful to be in the midst of family and friends for the Holiday, but the trip was memorable for an entirely different reason as well... the weather!
Our trip from St. Louis to St. Joseph on Friday was smooth sailing weather-wise, but by the time we arrived in St. Joseph Friday evening, the National Weather Service in Kansas City had already issued a "snow and blowing snow advisory" for Saturday. The forecast called for 4 to 6 inches by mid-afternoon Saturday. Our timing was perfect -- we had arrived just before the nasty weather, but we weren't out of the woods just yet.
We needed to make the trip from my in-laws' house in St. Joseph to my brothers house in Kansas City on Saturday if we wanted to make it to one of several family get-togethers. Snow began falling in St. Joseph early Saturday, and as the storm system rapidly intensified, heavy snow joined forces with gusty northwest winds to produce near white-out conditions. As I was loading up our vehicle with gifts in preparation for the St. Joseph to Kansas City trip (normally a 45-minute drive), the snow was already piling up. I brushed and scraped nearly 5 inches of snow off of my vehicle as we prepared for what promised to be a tense journey. I was about to make another trip to the driveway with another armful of presents when I was frozen in my tracks by a sudden flash of bright light. I stood motionless for a moment, convinced myself that I had just imagined it, and took a few more steps toward the front door. Just as I opened the door and began to step outside, thunder rumbled through the neighborhood. "Uh-oh," I though to myself, "Thundersnow!" That's right -- thundersnow -- a snowstorm so intense that it produces lightning and thunder. This phenomenon is quite rare, and is often an indicator of very heavy snow.
But, bound and determined to get to our Christmas festivities, we jumped into our SUV (thankfully equipped with 4-wheel drive), and began our trip. By this time, a 40-car pile-up had already occurred on Interstate 29 in St. Joseph, and the Interstate (the primary route from St. Joseph to Kansas City) was closed from south of St. Joseph all the way to the Iowa line. That's nearly 100 miles of Missouri Interstate closed down by heavy snow!
Because the Interstate was shut down in and around St. Joseph, we had to take county highways through the back-country just to get to an open portion of I-29. Even after we weaved our way back to the Interstate, the roads were snow-covered and the visibility was poor, as snow continued to fall and gusty winds continued to blow.
We were fortunate. We did eventually make it to our family gathering, although it took us a little over twice the normal amount of time to make the trip. More importantly, everyone who was expected to attend made it safe and sound! St. Joseph received about 8 incehs of snow before all was said and done. That was the most impressive winter storm I had experienced in many years, and to be driving through (rather than forecasting and tracking it in the 4Warn Storm Center) was a real adventure -- not one that I would recommend, by the way!
On a lighter note, my 3-month-old son has already experienced his first "thundersnow", something that his dad didn't live through until the age of 19. Too bad he won't remember it!