Downtown Belleville deserted as ice hits
Without much difficulty, the metro-east survived the opening round of an ice storm Friday. How well the region does during Saturday’s anticipated second day of freezing rain and ice depends on whether residents are as patient as they were Friday.
With schools closed and many businesses telling workers to stay at home, there were no major incidents Friday — something officials hope continues through a weekend that is expected to add to the total of around two-tenths of an inch of ice seen in Belleville.
“People heeded the message,” said Calvin Dye Jr., a trooper with the Illinois State Police. “We’d like people to stay off the roads until this is over.”
Outside of a small flurry of crashes around 4 p.m. during the evening rush hour, traffic incidents were minimal Friday. That’s mainly because few people were on the highways. With schools closed, all of their extracurricular activities were also canceled. Businesses that hadn’t made the decision Thursday to close Friday, made the call midday to get their workers home before Friday night, when driving conditions were expected to be at their worst.
The St. Clair Square Mall closed its doors at 3 p.m. Friday. Dierbergs and Schnucks followed suit, each releasing their workers and closing their doors just after the dinner hour.
While there were no major problems on the roads, those who used the Metro service in the metro-east were inconvenienced. Tracks between the Fairview Heights and Shiloh-Scott stations were shut down around 4:30 p.m. with bus service being used to transport passengers along that portion of the line. Service to that portion of the MetroLink was restored around 7:45 p.m. Stations from Fairview Heights to the west, into Missouri, didn’t experience any significant delays.
There were no significant power outages reported Friday. Officials feared that ice on power lines could lead to some outages.
Even though Friday went rather smoothly, officials warned for people not to let their guard down. Officials with the St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency turned to Facebook Live to keep citizens updated on the condition of county roads throughout the day.
“There is still more to come,” EMA Director Herb Simmons said during one of the broadcasts late Friday afternoon. “We still have several more rounds of precipitation coming. ... Don’t think you can jump in your cars and run around. Let’s heed the warnings.”
Officials with some major events scheduled for Saturday made the decision Friday to postpone.
An event to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 1917 East St. Louis race riot was postponed. Originally set for Saturday, event organizers announced they would be postponing the event because of inclement weather. Organizers said they were working to find a date in February to hold the event.
The St. Louis Cardinals announced Friday morning that the first day of the annual Winter Warm-Up, which was scheduled for Saturday at the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at the Arch, would not be held. The team planned to hold Sunday and Monday events as previously scheduled. The Cardinals said they would continue to monitor the weather. The 59th Annual St. Louis Baseball Writers Dinner is still on for 6:30 p.m. Sunday at St. Louis Union Station Hotel.
The latest forecast from the National Weather Service called for a chance of freezing rain and some patchy fog with a high of 33 degrees — just over the freezing mark — for Saturday. Saturday night calls for a chance of up to a tenth of an inch of additional ice accumulation. Some patchy fog is expected before midnight with the best chance of freezing rain coming after midnight.
The ice storm warning is set to expire at noon Sunday.