There is light at the end of the tunnel of snow.
After an extended period of temperatures as much as 45 degrees below normal, the Midwest is heading in the opposite direction, the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center announced Wednesday.
A warm-up is expected starting this weekend and will continue into next week with above-normal temperatures, possibly lasting into early March.
That’s good news for gas and electric suppliers.
Ameren Missouri has asked its electric and natural gas customers to continue to conserve energy through Friday, as have area electric co-ops such as Three Rivers Electric Cooperative and Callaway Electric Cooperative.
“Ameren Missouri’s electric and natural gas systems remain stable. Our customers are heeding the call and their actions to conserve energy use are working,” Mark Birk, Ameren senior vice president for customer and power operations, said in a news release. “As the temperatures across the Midwest warm in the next few days, we anticipate the conservation request will expire by the weekend.”
Setting the thermostat to 68 degrees or lower during the day and turning the thermostat down at night while sleeping are the top two things Ameren is asking customers to do.
About an inch of snow fell in most parts of Central Missouri during Wednesday’s storm, said meteorologist Ben Herzog, of the National Weather Service in St. Louis.
“We probably will be around zero on Friday morning, but we’ll get back to more normal temperatures by the weekend; and we have 55 as the forecasted high on Tuesday in Jefferson City,” Herzog said.
At the Columbia Regional Airport, the main weather site for the NWS in Central Missouri, the area has seen 12 consecutive days with temperatures staying below freezing, including Wednesday, Herzog said.
The area likely will have a couple more days of record cold — to match the 14 consecutive days of below-freezing temperatures recorded in December 2018 into January 2019. The record is 21 days in a row, set in 1905.
“Before we had this stretch in February, the biggest event we had (this winter) was a 3-inch snowfall in January — so until now, it had been a fairly tame winter,” Herzog said.
The news of incoming warmer temperatures was also welcomed by public works crews, who have battled the snow and record cold to keep local roads navigable over the past several days.
“Since Feb. 6, we’ve had trucks out every day but two,” Cole County Public Works Director Eric Landwehr said. “The winter had been pretty light coming into February, and these past few weeks made up for it.”
Since Sunday, Landwehr said, the county has used 300 tons of salt and 600 tons of salt-and-sand mix. The mix is used on gravel and paved roads to help with traction when temperatures dip below freezing.
County public works drivers are OK, but being out several days in a row wears on them, he said.
“You get up at 5 a.m. and work until 8 p.m., and that’s not easy for multiple days in a row,” Landwehr said.
Jefferson City Operations Division Director Britt Smith said city crews will be back out treating roads this morning, as they anticipated refreezing would take place overnight.
“The guys have been working 12- to 16-hour days, and that’s a grind,” Smith said. “We’ve got to get them some rest, and hopefully this warmer weather will let us do that.”
From Sunday through Tuesday, Smith said, the city went through almost 1,200 tons of salt and 5,000 gallons of calcium chloride, which goes down as a liquid and allows the salt to stay effective even with the temperature in the teens.
“We thank the public for their understanding, and we are reminding people that whether or not they live on a snow route, it’s not good to park on the street,” Smith said. “By not parking on the street, it allows us to do a more effective clearing with our equipment.”