Time to shiver and shovel: Wind chill to dip to minus 30 in metro-east

News-DemocratJanuary 5, 2014 

For the next two days, the wind chill is expected to dip to 30 below zero as the metro-east emerges from about 14 inches of snow that fell Sunday.

Near blizzard conditions caused the closures of churches, retail centers -- like St. Clair Square -- on Sunday as well as cancellations of school and work Monday.

Scott Truett, a senior forecaster with the National Weather Service, said the high temperature Monday will be below zero with gusts as high as 31 miles per hour.

The low overnight was expected to be minus 9.

"Somebody who gets stuck outside without proper clothing could get frostbite within seconds and be in a life-threatening situation in a few minutes," Truett said.

The National Weather Service issued a wind chill warning effective until noon Tuesday. The agency issues such a warning when strong winds combined with low temperatures make it feel like it is 25 degrees below zero or colder.

Temperatures will not rise above zero until Tuesday, and there is a 60 percent chance snow will return Wednesday night.

Geoff Wagner, 20, of Belleville, said Sunday's snow was the worst he has seen since 2006, when he awoke during a storm to ice snapping power lines and trees collapsing onto the roof of his home.

Still, Wagner ventured out Sunday morning to open Jimmy John's in Belleville.

"If I wasn't working, I'd be out throwing snowballs at my brother -- or sleeping," he said.

Wayne Munie, 48, a patron of Seven, said he walked from his home down Main Street to the Belleville restaurant and bar.

"I took a walk to see who was brave enough to open and enjoy other people not being out," Munie said. "Belleville's a really picturesque town, and the snow just makes it better."

Where to stay warm?

Warming shelters and city officials in the metro-east are working together to help the homeless and others without adequate shelter.

Ameren Illinois customers, for instance, were without power sometime on Sunday in the following areas: 1,395 customers in Fairview Heights, 1,567 in Godfrey, 373 in Alton and 291 in Hoyleton, among other cities.

The main cause of the outages and flickering are high winds, according to an Ameren Illinois news release.

The utility company has an emergency operations center and crews are ready to respond, but the delays are due to road conditions. In some cases, Ameren workers needed ATVs to get to their equipment.

Walter Boyd III, of the Continuum of Life Care Center at 1274 N. 37th St. in East St. Louis, said Sunday he needed road crews to keep plowing so he could go out and pick up those waiting in the cold.

"If the roads aren't bad and we can get to where they are, we'll go get them," Boyd said.

The center has picked up people from Belleville, Brooklyn, Cahokia and Venice. The center, which holds about 60 people, was about half full Sunday and is equipped to provide showers, computer use and other services.

Other available shelters are:

*In East St. Louis, St. Luke's Church, 414 N. 14th St.; Galilee Central Church, 1620 Dr. Zachary Lee Place; New Life Community Church, 1919 State St. and Gethsemane Church, 1435 Baugh Ave.

* In Edwardsville, the YMCA's Meyer Center and Goshen, Woodland, Cassens and Worden elementary schools will be open to residents.

* In Belleville, Mayor Mark Eckert said city employees were directed to assist any homeless people by calling the Police Department, which can provide hotel vouchers.

What is closed?

The Belleville City Hall will be closed Monday, trash collection will be postponed for a day and the City Council meeting was rescheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday.

"It's just not worth getting anybody hurt or sick," Eckert said.

Other municipal closures include: the villages of Swansea and Smithton; the Madison County Courthouse and Madison County Criminal Justice Center in Edwardsville; the Circuit Clerk's offices in Alton and Granite City; and the Bond County Courthouse in Greenville. Officials will notify those with court cases set for Monday of new dates.

Belleville District 118, Edwardsville Community Unit School District 7 and Bond County Community Unit School District 2 were among the districts to cancel school Monday.

Belleville Township High School 201 students already were scheduled off so teachers could have a teachers' workshop day.

On Sunday, Scott Air Force Base operated under "mission essential," which meant all customer service-related activities were shut down for the day, including the commissary. In St. Louis, the zoo and Gateway Arch, among other attractions, were closed.

A farewell ceremony for the U.S. Army Reserve 657th Movement Control Team, set to deploy to Afghanistan, was canceled Sunday and will not be rescheduled.

The team will leave the metro-east in a couple days for pre-deployment training in Mississippi and will spend nine months overseas, said Lt. Col. Monica Radtke, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Reserve.

How are the roads?

Officials statewide urge motorists to stay off the roads unless it is necessary.

"This winter storm will be one for the record books, and we want to make sure everyone stays safe and warm until it passes," Illinois Gov. Quinn said. The extreme winter weather affects more than 90 percent of the state, he added.

The blowing snow reduced visibility to less than one-fourth of a mile.

Illinois State Police Trooper Calvin Dye Jr. said troopers on Sunday responded to 162 calls for service, mostly for vehicles stuck in the snow. The figure includes 15 crashes, all without major injuries.

"It's been nonstop," Dye said. "We've got everybody available working and we still have calls stacked up... We urge motorists not to travel unless they have to work or its an absolute emergency."

Dye said the roads are turning icy and his own SUV, which has four-wheel drive, cannot exceed 20 mph.

In one hour Sunday afternoon, troopers responded to at least 10 semi tractor-trailer trucks stuck in the snow, including two in the Interstate 155 and 64 interchange, Dye said.

"If a semi is getting stuck, you know a car can't stand a chance," Dye said.

Joe Monroe, of the Illinois Department of Transportation, said Sunday the agency had more than 200 employees out clearing the roads.

Earlier Sunday, a vehicle drove into one of IDOT's snow plows but there were no injuries reported, Monroe said.

Monroe recommends having on hand at least a cell phone, blankets, water and a full tank of gas.

Roads in Belleville were covered with snow Sunday morning and motorists were driving slowly. Crews cleared thoroughfares such as Illinois 159 though new snow quickly covered their work.

The MetroLink and bus routes ran mostly without delay Sunday.

How much snow fell?

Heavy snow started to fall in the metro-east about 6 a.m. Sunday and tapered off to light blowing snow by evening.

Truett, of the National Weather Service, said the snowfall was on par with predictions and was pretty uniform in the metro-east, with about 14 inches in Belleville to 13 inches in Edwardsville.

The temperature went from 22 degrees about 10 a.m. Sunday to 9 degrees by 8 p.m. Sunday.

The winter storm on Sunday was described as having "near blizzard conditions" because the heavy snow did not fall at the same time as the high wind gusts.

The storm is a blizzard if it snows for at least three hours with quarter-mile visibility due to the snow at the same time there are wind gusts of more than 35 mph.

Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at jlee@bnd.com or 239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BNDJLee.

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