by Aimee Levitt
Egypt is in total chaos right now, you may have heard. The government has been overturned and there's rioting in the streets. But the Egyptians are way luckier than St. Louisans because even though their country is a shambles, it's going to be 70 degrees and sunny in Cairo tomorrow. And what do we get here in St. Louis? That's right, democracy, relative peace and another snowpocalypse.
Unlike Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, who was shocked -- shocked! -- by the revolution, Mayor Slay is fully prepared for disaster. Like any good modern leader, he has taken to the Twitter to reassure his constituency that even though the snowpocalypse is impending, his government is not sitting on its collective ass, no sirree.
For one thing, there will be extra trash pickup today -- not just the Monday routes, but Tuesday, too, so our alleys will not be snowed in and smelly. And the streets are being pre-treated to protect against ice. (Streets Department director Todd Waelterman reports that so far this winter, the city has gone through 11,000 tons of salt. Last year's total for the entire season was a mere 5,000 tons.)
Last night Ameren called in extra crews and contractors to man the power lines, targeting areas that are most vulnerable to power outages. The utility is also maintaining a map of power outages on its website (though that won't do you much good if you're one of those unfortunates who has lost power) and has set up a site for smartphone users to report problems.
Metro is on high alert. Though buses and trains are still running, Metro officials advise passengers to check its Twitter feed before trudging out to train stations and bus stops. (Metro's still working on getting a phone alert service up and running for those who don't yet Tweet.) Call-A-Ride will remain in operation tomorrow, with priority going to customers who need the service for "critical medical trips."
Local taxi services have informed St. Louis Metropolitan Taxicab Commission that they will suspend all services if the roads are too dangerous to drive on.
As the initial sleet began to fall, some of the mayor's top officials, plus County Executive Charlie Dooley and representatives of the National Weather Service assembled for a press conference at Soldiers Memorial to discuss how St. Louis will handle the storm. Daily RFT will pass on more information as we get it.
Update 12:20 p.m. -- Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays the Pi Pizza Truck from the swift completion of its appointed rounds. The truck has set up shop at Broadway and Pine.
Update 12:30 p.m. -- The Post-Dispatch has prepared Snowpocalypse Bingo cards to entertain you as you watch local newscasts with your loved ones.
The Saint Louis Zoo closed at noon. Like you were really going to stand around in the sleet while the animals hid in their dens.
KMOV has a list of other businesses that have shut down in the face of the mighty snowpocalypse.
Update 1:00 p.m. -- The Business Journal reports on local hotels that are offering discounts for stranded commuters (or, we suppose, people who are afraid to stay in their own homes).
Update 1:30 p.m. -- Washington University will be closing all its campuses except the Medical Center at 3 p.m. today. This includes Family Learning Center, also known as day care, so be sure to pick up your children (unless, of course, you want a peaceful snow day followed by legal action). The university has not yet made an official statement about tomorrow, but you can probably make a pretty good guess what it's going to be.
Saint Louis University will close at 4 p.m. and stay closed all day tomorrow. The hospital and SLUCare, however, will remain open.
UMSL will also be shutting down at 4 p.m.
The St. Louis Public Library and the Municipal Library Consortium will remain open until further notice. "We're planning both ways," says Patrick Wall, director of the University City Library. "We'll close if we have to and stay open if we can." The St. Louis County Library will close all its branches at 5 p.m.
Update 1:45 p.m. -- If you were planning on going to a show tonight, check A to Z to make sure it hasn't been canceled.
Update 2:00 p.m. -- Words of wisdom from Kara Bowlin, Mayor Slay's press secretary:
1) Residents should only use 911 for a true emergency. For everything else (traffic lights out, water main breaks, requesting a city service, etc.) they should call the United Way from 211 from a landline or 1-800-427-4626 from a cell. That will free up 911 lines for the people who really need it.
2) Don't drive if you don't have to.
3) Check on your neighbors.
4) If you park a car on a road that gets plowed, consider moving it to an alternate location. If not, park as close to the curb as possible. This helps our plows and our emergency vehicles get through.
Update 3:45 p.m. -- Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has declared a state of emergency and mobilized 600 National Guard troops to help local agencies handle the storm. It's still being determined where the troops will go. He's also ordered that emergency generators be set up in various locations around Missouri in case the power goes out.
The University of Missouri-Columbia will be shutting down for today at 4 p.m. It will not reopen tomorrow. Whether it opens on Wednesday is an open question which Chancellor Brady Deaton promises will be resolved by 4 p.m. tomorrow.
Ameren has set up an emergency phone number for citizens to report power outages: 800-552-7583. Contact the Citizens Service Bureau at 314-622-4800 with problems with city services.
But rest assured, Cranky Yellow's Acro-Cat Circus will be going on as planned at 2720 Cherokee. Intrepid correspondent Unreal visited the circus the last time it was in town and reported it was quite a show.
Update 4:00 p.m. -- Gut Check reports that Schnucks and Dierbergs have been preparing for the storm by taking extra deliveries of staple food items, including bananas. A canvass of the Richmond Heights Schnucks shows what St. Louisans (and Wash. U. students) stock up on when they're snowed up.
Update 4:20 p.m. -- If you were thinking about flying out of St. Louis tonight, think again. Even though the snow's not expected for another hour or so, 170 flights out of Lambert Airport have already been canceled, including all flights from American and Southwest, the airport's two biggest carriers. United and US Air still appear to be flying. Delta is iffy. Check departures and arrivals on the airport's website to save yourself an unnecessary schlep up I-170.
Update 5:15 p.m. -- It's over, y'all. A to Z reports that Pops is closed. The Sauget concert venue never closes. Ever. Even Mayor Slay is headed home. (We hope he didn't Tweet that while driving.) If you're not already someplace safe, scrape the ice off your car and get there as soon as you can.
Update 5:50 p.m. -- Metrolink users are reporting delays as long as half an hour.