Mercury on the rise, but more snow is on the way

News-DemocratJanuary 7, 2014 

Metro-east residents will get a little bit of a break Tuesday from the extreme weather conditions that have gripped the area since the weekend.

The high temperature is expected to climb from a low of 11 degrees below zero overnight in the Belleville area to 21 Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service. It may not seem like a lot of improvement. But that's warm enough for road chemicals to finally start to break down the packed snow and ice that has coated roads across the region since Sunday.

The all-time record low for Jan. 6 is 16 below zero set in 1875. While Belleville fell short of that mark, overnight reports from Scott Air Force Base indicated the low temperature there dropped to 16 degrees below zero early Tuesday morning.

Because it has been too cold for road chemicals to work, roads continue to be snow and ice-packed. Early reports Tuesday indicate that roads were worse then than they were the day before.

Joe Monroe, operations manager for District 8 of the Illinois Department of Transportation in Collinsville, said Monday that workers hope to remove ice under the snow after the sun has a chance to warm road surfaces.

"I can't stress enough that people need to slow down," he said. "When we're peeling off the snow there is a layer of ice left behind because of compression. At minus 6 degrees there isn't a chemical in our arsenal that will melt that ice."

The National Weather Service predicts an inch or two of snow in the storm system arriving Wednesday night, with rain in the forecast at the end of the week, meteorologist Mark Britt said.

A wind chill advisory, meaning it will feel like it is between 15 below to 24 below, is effective for St. Clair and Monroe counties until 10 a.m. Tuesday.

A wind chill warning, which means it will feel like minus 25 or colder, was issued for Madison and Clinton counties until noon Tuesday.

Residents spent Monday digging out of the major snowstorm Sunday that brought 12 inches or more of snow in most places. Plowed streets only served to push huge snow banks against driveways.

Despite the cold, the U.S. Postal Service attempted to deliver mail. Snow piled near roadside mailboxes made delivery difficult, if not impossible.

Valerie Welsch, a USPS spokeswoman in St. Louis, said mail carriers were out trying to complete their rounds.

"They will be delivering wherever possible," Welsch said. "The only problem might be where streets are not cleared and their vehicles could get stuck."

One of those letters carriers was Dennis Pauly, who gamely trudged and stumbled over unshoveled porch steps and sidewalks near the corner of North Church and East B streets, north of downtown Belleville.

The sub-zero temperatures didn't affect his deliveries, but the heavy snowfall did, said Pauly, 59.

On a day like Monday, he has discretion to decide which addresses he can drop off letters and packages, he said. But that creates problems, too, Pauly said.

"At some point, what I don't do today I have to do tomorrow," he said.

Pauly, who's been delivering letters since 1978, added he had trouble seeing since his eyeglasses kept fogging up.

"I had to take them off," he said. "So I hope I'm reading everything right."

Over at the Jimmy John's restaurant at the corner of North High and East Main streets in Belleville, Kayla Hannon, 16, ate a submarine sandwich with her parents, Robin and Charles Hannon, before boarding a bus for the six-hour ride north to the Illinois Math and Science Academy, near Chicago.

Hannon admitted to a little anxiety about the bus ride.

"We were supposed to leave yesterday, but things got canceled," Kayla said. "So I'm going today."

Most schools and day-cares were closed Monday, including Southwestern Illinois College and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Many also canceled classes for Tuesday due to the dangerously cold temperatures, such as Belleville District 118.

Most government offices and city halls will reopen Tuesday. But in many communities, including Edwardsville and O'Fallon, trash pickup was canceled due to the heavy snow and cold, and will be picked up one day later this week or not until next week.

The St. Clair and Madison County offices and courthouses will be open Tuesday after some court dates were reset Monday.

Hundreds of drivers stuck

Illinois State Police spokesman Calvin Dye Jr. said authorities want people to stay off the roads unless it's absolutely necessary.

State Police had a total of 290 calls Sunday, Dye said. About 230 of them involved motorists who suffered breakdowns or who got stuck and 20 of them were traffic crashes.

"It's the most I've seen by far in my 101/2 years here," Dye said. "It's still very dangerous, especially because of black ice. My superiors are basically begging the public: If you don't have to travel, don't."

A 23-year-old woman was hospitalized in critical condition after a Sunday afternoon crash near Freeburg.

According to State Police reports, the woman was at a stop in the southbound lane of Illinois 13 near Blacksmith Shop Road because of whiteout conditions when she was rear-ended by another motorist who said he couldn't see her car.

As rescue crews worked to get the woman out of her 2005 Chevrolet to take her to the hospital, several passing vehicles crashed while trying to avoid the original accident, Dye said.

Injuries to the other driver in the original accident or the occupants of cars involved in the later crashes were not believed to be life-threatening.

Police did not name the people involved in the collision, which is still under investigation, according to Dye. State Police have not decided if they will seek charges in the crash.

In East Alton, an all-terrain vehicle crash on Sunday injured a man who now faces multiple charges.

Terry Leverett, 31, of East Alton, allegedly operated an ATV on East Airline Drive at Airwood Drive at about 6:32 p.m.

Leverett ran through a stop sign and was struck by an eastbound vehicle, according to the Madison County Sheriff's Department.

Leverett was treated at a nearby hospital for minor injuries. He was charged with disobeying a stop sign, driving with a suspended license and improper operation of an ATV.

Madison County Sheriff Bob Hertz reminds residents that it is illegal to operate an ATV on public roads, and dangerous to do so in inclement weather and at night, as ATVs do not have proper lighting.

The American Automobile Association's Missouri chapter, which services St. Louis and the metro-east, expected to deal with 600 to 1,000 motorist assist calls Monday.

Snow plows out in force

Bitterly cold temperatures made snow removal difficult for plow crews.

Missouri Department of Transportation leaders reported that it was so cold that road salt became frozen in the back of plow trucks and couldn't be spread on the roads.

IDOT's Monroe called interstate highways "passable" but warned that they were still snow and ice packed.

The snow cleanup was also slowed by a change in the weather pattern overnight Monday.

Monroe said crews dealt with drifting initially caused by northerly winds. Then the wind shifted and came from the west, causing new drifting problems on north-south routes such as Interstate 255, and Illinois 157, 159 and 3, that had to be taken care of.

On and off ramps on interstates were especially troublesome because their banked curves catch the snow.

Monroe said all major roads were open Monday thanks to crews working all night.

Three IDOT plows were damaged so far during the snow clearing process when they were hit by motorists either following too closely or trying to pass.

Monroe said drivers caught behind plows should feel like "they won the lottery" -- because that's where roads are in the best shape -- and stay in place behind the plows.

If people can avoid the roads, they should do so -- to give plow crews and chemicals a chance to do their work, police said. But if they must travel they need to make sure they're prepared -- with blankets, water and food -- in case they get stranded for an extended period of time.

Belleville city employees worked overnight to clear major arteries and downtown, though some residents complained Monday that some side streets remain impassable.

Roads throughout Walnut Hill Cemetery, owned by the city of Belleville, were plowed in preparation for a funeral so those in attendance do not get stuck in the snow.

Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert said three members of the Street Department crew are assigned to ongoing maintenance of the cemetery.

"They plowed there, they did their job and then we reassigned them to other parts of the city," Eckert said.

Warming centers open

In East St. Louis, warming centers will be open on a staggered schedule 24 hours a day so those needing shelter can find it somewhere in the city through Friday night. For more information, call City Hall at 560-0565.

The staggered scheduled from Jan. 7 to 10 is as follows:

* Tuesday -- Continuum of Life Care Center, 1274 North 37th St.

* Tuesday and Wednesday -- New Life Community Church, 1919 State St.

* Wednesday and Thursday -- Gethsemane Church, 1435 Baugh Ave.

* Thursday and Friday -- Muhammed Mosque, Suite 28B, 1435 Baugh Ave.

The city of East St. Louis also is working with Medstar Ambulance Services, Walgreens, Schnucks and Medicate to deliver medicine to those who would be in a life-threatening situation without their prescriptions. For more details, call Anthony Vinson at 560-0656.

Meanwhile, Edwardsville's schoolchildren may be snuggled in at home, but some schools are on standby as warming centers. The main buildings at Cassens, Woodland, Goshen and Worden elementary schools, and the YMCA Meyer Center, will open as shelter for residents who lose power or whose heating systems fail.

Anyone who needs transportation to a warming shelter should call the Edwardsville Police Department at 656-2131 or Glen Carbon Police at 288-2610.

Edwardsville Police Chief Jay Keeven said Edwardsville police responded to three non-injury traffic crashes and more than 33 cars stuck in the snow in the 36 hours since the storm began Sunday until mid-afternoon Monday.

There was one weather-related injury that required paramedics, but was not life-threatening, he said.

"We're still working on getting the roads cleared," Keeven said.

Traffic in Edwardsville was sparse due to closures of the schools, county building and courts. Nearly all businesses in downtown Edwardsville were closed Monday, though Main Street was fairly clear.

Keeven said the city's nine snowplows began clearing the subdivisions Monday after clearing main roadways, but motorists should still expect snow-packed roads.

The city is also loading the large piles of snow in downtown Edwardsville into dump trucks to improve mobility. Parents are asked not to let children play on or around the large mounds of snow, he said.

"If people could not park on the roadway and instead park in their driveways, that would help," he said.

In Glen Carbon, the Senior Citizen Center located between the Village Hall and Glen Carbon Police Station is open as a warming center until further notice, according to Glen Carbon Police.

Belleville News-Democrat is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service