- Associated Press - Friday, February 7, 2014

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Winter storms usually cause a spike in wrecks, but the Missouri State Highway Patrol on Friday raised concerns about the massive number of accidents that occurred over a two-day period this week.

Heavy snow, nearly a foot in some places, as well as sleet blanketed much of the state Tuesday and Wednesday. Streets, roads and highways across Missouri were a mess, and the cold made it harder for crews to clear the pavement.

The Highway Patrol typically handles about 100 accidents per day. On Tuesday and Wednesday, troopers investigated a combined 1,054 wrecks in which 96 people were hurt and two killed.

Both fatal wrecks were near Springfield. On Tuesday, a car slid off the road and struck a culvert, killing the passenger, Shane Lutz, 30, of Walnut Grove. The other fatal wreck was Wednesday when a Ford Ranger driven by David Speake of Fair Grove slid off the road and hit an embankment.

In addition to accidents, troopers responded to 3,045 calls for assistance - cars breaking down, vehicles that slid off the roadway and vehicles abandoned on the side of the road and in the way of snow removal equipment.

Patrol Superintendent Ron Replogle urged people to stay off the roads if at all possible when conditions are treacherous.

“It is dangerously cold outside, and winter isn’t finished with Missouri quite yet,” Replogle said in a news release.

Those venturing out into winter weather are encouraged to make sure the car is in good condition. In addition to an ice scraper, the patrol suggests keeping in the trunk tire chains, battery booster cables, flares or reflectors, blankets, gloves, a flashlight and a bag of sand or kitty litter.

The patrol also suggests that drivers carry a fully charged cellphone, bottled water and a snack in case they get stranded. Keep the fuel tank at least half-full, decrease speed and allow extra room between vehicles, the patrol said. If the car slides off the road, stay with it until help arrives.

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