BY BRIAN L. HUCHEL
Calendars may say its spring, but blowing snow and high drifts were the only things residents throughout the county and the region saw Sunday and early Monday.
Measurements reported to the National Weather Service by the Vermilion County Emergency Management Agency indicated the Palm Sunday snowstorm dropped 10 ½ inches of snow on Danville in 24 hours. A little more than 11 inches of snow fell during the weekend as a result of the storm.
In one weekend, this year’s spring season — which began on Wednesday — accumulated almost as much snow as the entire winter season. Danville received 12 ½ inches of snow this winter.
The weekend snow storm easily topped the paltry 8 inches of snow received in the 2011-2012 winter season.
Across the state line, residents in Covington, Ind., also received 10 ½ inches of snow from the weekend storm.
Mary Techtow, administrative assistant for the Vermilion County Highway Department, said plows were out at 4 a.m. Monday working to clear county roads. Despite the heavy wet snow that fell, she said the biggest problem was drifting on Monday. Plow trucks for the county were expected to remain out until 6-7 p.m. Monday.
Passage was difficult enough on many county roads, although no roads were expected to be closed as a result of the conditions. Techtow said in one case, a semi-tractor trailer on County Road 2550 became stuck in snow on the railroad tracks, forcing a train to stop until the semi moved.
Plows did not go out for the county Sunday night because of the high winds, which gusted at more than 30 mph.
The Vermilion County Sheriff’s Department was kept busy responding to accidents since the snow started falling Sunday afternoon.
Capt. Dennis Wood said there were five accidents since Sunday afternoon; two resulted in minor injuries. Deputies also responded to reports of about three dozen vehicles in ditches and assisted other agencies on Interstate 74, including a semi-truck blocking a lane.
Deputies have been working overtime and using the department’s four-wheel drive vehicles, he said.
By noon Monday, the north-south roads in the county were experiencing drifting snow, and some roads, such as U.S. Route 150, were down to a lane and a half, Wood said.
The side roads and the non-main roads were still hazardous by Monday afternoon, and Wood advised people in rural areas to travel only if necessary.
“People just need to be cautious and watch out,” he said.
Despite the snow, a quick warm up is on the way. The National Weather Service forecast calls for highs in the mid-40s by Friday and into the low to middle 50s for Saturday and Easter Sunday.
The quick turnaround will cause other problems while the snow is around, as low nighttime temperatures are expected to cause conditions to re-freeze, creating slick spots on roadways.
In addition, the melting of the deluge of snow is expected to create the potential for flooding conditions on the county’s waterways, according to county EMA Executive Director Ted Fisher.
Monitoring the waterways could become difficult because of a recent decision by the U.S. Geological Survey, which has announced it will shut down as many as 375 stream gauges nationwide due to budget cuts as a result of sequestration.
Fisher indicated he has spoken to the Vermilion County Sheriff’s Department about monitoring the river levels visually if the gauges in Vermilion County are shut down this week.