MoDOT reviewing I-70 snowstorm shutdown

| 12/5/2006

The Missouri Department of Transportation and the state's Highway Patrol are reviewing what led up to a huge, day-long traffic jam on eastbound Interstate 70 Friday, Dec. 1, in hopes of avoiding any repeats in the future.

MoDOT Director of Operations Don Hillis told "Land Line Now" on XM Satellite Radio that at one point, cars and trucks were backed up for 30 miles in the eastbound lanes, after icy conditions and blowing snow led to numerous accidents and jack-knifed trucks.

Hillis said a big part of the problem was that blowing snow prevented the plows from clearing the highway.

"During the period where we were getting the blowing snow, visibility was zero," Hillis said. "With a visibility of zero, we had to stop plowing. At one point in one area of I-70, half the trucks that we had dedicated to the effort had run off in the ditch."

Hill said he doesn't know why MoDOT didn't simply shut down the eastbound lanes long before the traffic backed up for 30 miles, but that the question is one officials will try to answer during their review.

The overall death toll from the storm and frigid conditions rose to 23 on Monday. According to The Associated Press, causes of death included traffic accidents, fires, carbon monoxide poisoning and exposure.

More than a quarter of a million customers were still without power in Missouri and Illinois this morning.

- By Reed Black, staff writer