POPLAR BLUFF - While the prospects for a white Christmas in the Bootheel are slim, the Missouri State Highway Patrol is still cautioning drivers to be aware of the forecasts and plan their holiday trips accordingly.
Sunday was the first day of winter yet temperatures were in the mid 50s.
And temperatures aren't expected to drop much, said Jon Dissauer of the KFVS12 Storm Team, which means it's unlikely Southeast Missouri will get a white Christmas. "It takes one inch of snow on the ground to be considered a white Christmas in meteorological terms," said Dissauer. "There's pretty much no chance of that."
Dissauer said that highs have been slightly above normal this month, but that's not unusual for December. The average high for Dec. 21 is in the lower 40s, but the record is in upper 60s, he said.
Highs are expected to stay above freezing for the rest of the week, Dissauer said, but there remains a lot of uncertainty in the forecast. "There are a lot of question marks right now," he said. "None of the computer models are agreeing with each other."
Because of the uncertainty those who do take the roads during the holiday, the Missouri State Highway Patrol reminds travelers this can impact traffic patterns. Travelers should check the weather forecast and plan accordingly. The Road Condition Report number is 1-800-222-6400.
If faced with a traffic emergency, motorists can contact the Missouri State Highway Patrol at 1-800-525-5555 or *55 on a cellular phone. This emergency number will ring into the nearest Highway Patrol headquarters.
Motorists should use this number if they are in a traffic crash, witness a crash or crime, or pass a stranded motorist in need of assistance, etc.
"Troopers are proud to serve Missouri's citizens and all available officers will be on the roadway during this holiday season," said Colonel Roger D. Stottlemyre with the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
Last year over the Christmas holiday, there were 384 traffic crashes during a 30-hour counting period. In those crashes, one person was killed and another 142 were injured. This year's traffic crash counting period begins at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, 24, and ends at 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 28.
The New Year's traffic crash counting period will be from 6 p.m. Dec. 31, 2003 and ends at 11:59 p.m. Jan. 4, 2004. Last year, eight people were killed and 194 injured in 411 traffic crashes over this holiday.
Many of the injuries can be prevented when precautions are taken, the officer said. "Everyone is encouraged to buckle their seat belts. Too many lives are lost when people don't buckle up," noted Stottlemyre.
Also he urged Missourians during the holidays to choose a designated driver if their holiday plans include alcohol. "Drunk drivers cause too many traffic crashes every year," said Stottlemyre. "The injuries and deaths that result from drunk driving can be prevented if people celebrate responsibly."
Other tips offered by the Highway Patrol included:
* Pay attention to your driving;
* If bad weather is expected, make sure your vehicle is winterized;
* Allow extra time to reach your destination; and
* Obey all traffic laws.
Some information for this article was provided by the Southeast Missouri News Service.