The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

January 7, 2014

Winter whallops area with snow, cold

BY BRIAN L. HUCHEL bhuchel@dancomnews.com
The Commercial-News

---- — DANVILLE – Winter weather conditions effectively shut down Vermilion County Sunday and Monday as the area waited out a winter storm and intense cold that covered the region.

As of Sunday night, the Danville area had received just under 10 inches of snow as a result of the winter storm that swept through central Illinois and Indiana. That brings the total for the season to just more than 25 inches.

Winds were recorded at more than 30 mph at one point with gusts close to 38 mph in the Danville area.

The conditions resulted in a number of rescue situations for local emergency personnel in different parts of the county. Near Georgetown, the sheriff’s department called on county trucks Sunday night to help with a stranded motorist.

In the northern edge of the county, locals working with Hoopeston Emergency Management Agency went out on snowmobiles to assist a stranded motorist Friday night.

Scott Strawser, director of the Hoopeston EMA, said visibility was next to zero for the stranded driver.

“He got two miles out and couldn’t see where he was going and went in the ditch,” he said.

At one point, Strawser estimated snow was falling in the Hoopeston area at almost an inch an hour.

Gretchen Yordy, spokeswoman for Presence United Samaritans Medical Center, said Monday that the hospital’s emergency department had two patients that morning with hypothermia that were likely to be admitted. One of the patients also had severe frostbite on one hand as a result of being trapped in a vehicle.

The hospital, she said, also received some patients in the emergency department Sunday who received injuries as a result of vehicle accidents on Sunday.

Today was expected to bring more of the same temperatures for the region. Forecasts from the National Weather Service in Lincoln called for a high of just 5 degrees today and tonight with wind chills remaining at between minus-27 and minus-7 degrees. More snow is expected in the area Wednesday and Thursday.

Weather-related closures were already extending into today in some cases, with Danville Area Community College, Danville District 118, Catlin, Westville, Hoopeston and Oakwood schools and the outpatient clinics at the Veterans Affairs Illiana Health System in Danville announcing they would be closed today.

After shutting down services Monday, Danville Mass Transit announced it would be open today, but would not offer its services to outlying areas, including the Georgetown and Danville-Champaign routes as well as its evening service.

Road conditions remained hazardous at best well into the day Monday. Illinois State Police at District 10 in Pesotum issued a statement mid-morning Monday, confirming state routes, U.S. routes and county/township roads impassable. Interstate 74 was listed as dangerous with snow-packed drifts and icy patches. The statement was a continuation of state police determinations early Sunday night.

Conditions had improved slightly in Vermilion County by mid-afternoon Monday, with a report from the Illinois Department of Transportation indicating that Illinois Route 1 and U.S. Route 150 were open. All other primary roads, however, still were considered closed.

Vermilion County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Dennis Wood said travel was difficult Monday with deputies fielding a number of calls for stranded motorists and vehicles off the road.

“People are trying to venture out and they’re not doing so well,” he said. “A lot of main roads are starting to get open, but we’re seeing them drift right back shut again.”

Wood said many townships were telling the sheriff’s department that plowing would not continue until Monday’s winds calmed.

“I’m not depending on anyone plowing until the winds die down,” he said.

Vermilion County Highway Engineer Doug Staske said his trucks were out on county roads making headway Monday. As a testament to the bad road conditions, he said some of his personnel were called in Sunday night to help the sheriff’s department assist stranded motorists in the southern end of the county.

As a result, one of the trucks became stuck in the snow.

On Monday, wind continued to be a problem for plows, but Staske said the daylight conditions were helping crews — which had been out since 5 a.m. — make progress.

“The drifting is significant and wind has been a problem,” he said. “We’re trying to get the drifts plowed away to get each road open.”

He said county trucks would continue working on the roads throughout Monday and decide in the evening whether to pull drivers in for the night.

“If the wind continues to blow, we don’t want to have drivers out in the dark with blizzard conditions,” he said.

Bob Scott, services and operations manager for Danville Public Works, said arterial and residential areas throughout the city were looking good Monday, receiving at least two passes each.

“It’s snow-packed but navigable if you’re cautious,” he said, adding some streets had a slight glaze as a result of mist that fell before turning to snow.

With the single-digit and negative temperatures, Scott said the city did not have any materials that would work on the glaze. Once temperatures begin to rise — 25 degrees is forecast by Wednesday — the city would begin to deal with the glaze.

The City of Danville issued a winter emergency Saturday night and were on the streets around the clock until 7 p.m. Monday. City trucks spent most of Sunday working Danville’s main traffic arteries before moving into residential areas Sunday night.