JEFFERSON CITY – Heavy rain, a winter storm, an NFL playoff game and students returning to school could lead to traffic slowdowns this weekend on Missouri roadways.

The Missouri Department of Transportation urges drivers to use caution as heavy rain is predicted for Friday. A flash flood watch has been issued for south and central Missouri, including the cities of Springfield, Columbia and St. Louis, with expected rainfall of up to 4 inches. Runoff from the heavy rainfall could cause flash flooding on smaller creeks and streams.

Motorists are warned not to drive into low-water crossings or around barricades blocking flooded roadways. “MoDOT will be closely monitoring the state’s flood-prone areas and will have crews on standby into Saturday in preparation for any flash flooding or if there is a need to close roads,” said Natalie Roark, state maintenance director.

Friday’s heavy rains could give way to a wintry mix beginning late Friday into Saturday morning and continuing throughout the day. Sleet and freezing rain may precede the snowfall with snow accumulations of 1 to 5 inches across the central and northern parts of the state. Isolated areas across the state could see significantly more accumulation.

“Due to the nature of this winter event, treating roads ahead of the storm will not be practical in some areas of the state,” Roark said. Heavy rains that are forecast to precede the ice and snow would wash away the necessary treatments rendering them ineffective. “Crews are ready for any winter precipitation and we will be staffed as necessary for the duration of the winter event.” she said.

Though the wintry weather should end by Saturday night, motorists should be alert for refreezing overnight Saturday and into Sunday morning. “This could be a treacherous weekend for travel, depending on where in the state you’re going,” Roark said. “Plan ahead, take it slow and be alert. And, as always, make sure everyone in your vehicle is buckled up and put your phone down if you’re driving.”

Sunday’s Divisional Round playoff game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans will likely result in heavy traffic near Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. In addition, many college students will be returning to campuses after the winter break which will add to increased traffic both Saturday and Sunday.

To check road conditions and possible closures due to flooding, please go to MoDOT’s Traveler Information Map at http://traveler.modot.org/map/. The map is also available as a free app for Apple and Android devices.

MoDOT also provides road condition information through its Customer Service Center. Dial 888-ASK-MODOT (888-275-6636) to speak with a customer service representative 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

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For more information, call MoDOT at 888-ASK-MODOT (275-6636) or visit www.modot.org. To receive the latest statewide news and text alerts, signup for e-updates.