Here’s what the commute looked like for metro-east residents during snowstorm
The National Weather Service predicted a half inch more snow Thursday after the first big snowfall in years brought 3-5 inches in Southwestern Illinois.
On Friday, the weather is expected to be sunny, with a high of 47 degrees. Any snow remaining on roadways will be long gone with the warming temperatures.
Here’s a look at how the first major winter storm of the season affected businesses, schools and traffic:
It was business as usual
Dan Hamilton, owner of Keil’s Antiques on Main Street in Belleville, welcomed winter. “It will bring people in. It seems like Christmas,” Hamilton said.
Stag Beer mementos, Christmas cookie cutters and toys should soon be flying off the shelves, Hamilton said.
He intended to spend Thursday afternoon continuing decorating his store for Christmas.
John Conkright, owner of Ben’s Crafts, shoveled snow off the sidewalk in front of his store on East Main Street. “People say that it’s good for business, but you never pick up for a day of bad weather,” Conkright said.
At 11 a.m., it was Conkright’s second time shoveling the walk he’s cleaned for 42 years.
“And I am only 39,” Conkright laughed.
There’s one business on Main Street that was booming — Ambassador Travel. “My cellphone was blowing up this morning,” said Julie Crunk, travel agent and owner.
With Lambert-St. Louis International Airport canceling flights because of the snow, Crunk answered calls from clients stranded in Mexico.
“I told them to negotiate a hotel room for another night and stay right there,” she said.
The first snow brings lots of business to Ambassador, Crunk said, with people planning vacations to tropical destinations, like Cancun, Mexico, Costa Rica or Jamaica.
“They want to go anywhere that’s warm,” she said.
Some businesses closed because of the snow, including Hofbräuhaus in west Belleville.
Scott Schmelzel, owner of Big Daddy’s bar, said he adjusted his specials for the weather.
“Chicken and dumplings. It’s a good hearty meal,” he said.
Or Schmelzel said people who took the day off can come in and enjoy the drink special.
“Fireball. That will warm you up,” he said.
Some Scott Air Force Base employees were working from home Thursday, said base worker Ron Trembath. Trembath lives in Mascoutah and says technology allows him and other employees to telecommute when the weather is bad.
“The mission has to go on,” Trembath said in a message to the Belleville News-Democrat. “It’s nice for those who have the option, knowing many jobs don’t have it. I’m thankful for those who have to venture out in it: fire, police, EMS and hospital workers.”
Schools closed — most anyway
Most of the metro-east’s public schools were closed Thursday, but Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s campus remained open.
Alison Knowles, a senior at SIUE, said she wishes the university had canceled classes. Some of her fellow students were traveling from more than an hour and a half away through the snow for classes, she said.
“I’m lucky that I live on campus currently. But a lot of students, especially upperclassmen, don’t live here or even in Edwardsville so they’re really out of luck when it’s like this,” Knowles said.
Classes were canceled at other area colleges, including Lewis and Clark Community College, McKendree University in Lebanon, and Lindenwood University in Belleville and St. Charles, Mo. Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville canceled day classes and planned to announce by 4:30 p.m. if night classes would be canceled, too.
SIUE Vice Chancellor for Administration Rich Walker said that he decided to keep the university open because the roads to the campus were passable and open to traffic. Conditions weren’t extreme enough to warrant canceling classes, he added.
“It is the university’s practice to stay open unless the conditions are so severe that they’re extreme,” Walker said. “State roads, local roads, campus roads and parking lots were all passable. It just did require people to take extra time and use extra caution.”
Walker said he began consulting with IDOT and MODOT as early as 2:30 a.m. Thursday. Crews were also out on campus at midnight clearing pathways and parking lots, Walker added.
Universities have a higher threshold for canceling classes than elementary schools, Walker said.
“Local schools deal with children. We don’t. We work with and teach adults,” Walker said.
Traffic started off dicey, got better
Morning commuters were greeted to 3-5 inches of snow in Southern Illinois, but most main roads were passable and either just wet of slushy. Illinois State Police were aware of 23 crashes with no serious injuries, and 50 cars pulled from ditches with no major damage on Thursday.
Illinois State Police Trooper Calvin Dye Jr. said there were five crashes Wednesday night involving semi-trucks with no injuries when sleet and ice hit the area before the snow.
One crash was reported overnight during the snow by the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department. A head-on collision in the 3400 block of Floraville Road in Smithton resulted in minor injuries to both drivers.
Around 5 a.m. Thursday, a car struck a utility pole on U.S. 50, just west of Illinois Route 4, causing a citywide power outage in Lebanon, according to police.
The Lebanon Police Department stated in a post to social media that there were no injuries. Ameren Illinois expected to have power restored to the city by 11 a.m.
MetroLink and MetroBus were operating without significant delays through the snowfall Thursday morning.
O’Fallon officials said their crews worked through the night to keep emergency routes, intersections and hills plowed. They moved into residential areas just after 9:30 a.m., according to the city’s social media.
The heaviest Illinois snowfall totals reaching half a foot in spots were reported in a band from the St. Louis area to around Springfield. Up to 3 inches of snow had fallen by Thursday morning in the Peoria and Carbondale areas. The Chicago area had about an inch of snow.
How much snow actually fell?
Here’s how much snow the metro-east region saw from Wednesday night until Thursday morning, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Patrick Walsh:
▪ Belleville: 3.5 inches as of 10 a.m.
▪ Shiloh: 3.5 inches as of 4 a.m.
▪ Fairview Heights: 4.3 inches as of 6 a.m.
▪ O’Fallon: 4.5 inches at 8 a.m.
▪ Columbia: 4 inches as of 6:30 a.m.
▪ Wood River: 3 inches as of 5 a.m.
▪ Waterloo: 4.4 inches as of 7 a.m.
▪ Red Bud: 3.5 inches as of 7 a.m.
Warming centers open
The following is a list of warming centers that were reported open to those in the metro-east as of Thursday morning:
▪ Trinity United Church of Christ: 47 N. Douglas Ave. in Belleville
▪ Belleville Public Library: S. Jackson and E. Washington streets in Belleville
▪ Illinois Department of Human Services Division of Rehabilitation Services: 601 S. High St. in Belleville
▪ Southwestern Illinois College Programs and Services for Older Persons: 201 N. Church St. in Belleville
▪ West Branch Public Library: 3414 W. Main St. in Belleville
▪ Salvation Army: 20 Glory Place in Belleville
▪ O’Fallon Public Library: 120 Civic Place in O’Fallon
▪ Caseyville Township: 10001 Bunkum Road in Fairview Heights
▪ Fairview Heights Library: 10017 Bunkum Road in Fairview Heights
▪ Clyde C. Jordan Senior Center: 6755 State St. in East St. Louis
▪ East St. Louis Library: 5300 State St. in East St. Louis
▪ Washington Park City Hall: 5218 N. Park Drive in East St. Louis
▪ Salvation Army East St. Louis: 616 N. 16th St. in East St. Louis
▪ Centreville Township: 4831 Bond Ave. in East St. Louis
▪ Lessie Bates Mary Brown Center: 606 S. 15th St. in East St. Louis
▪ Illinois State Department of Resources: 225 N. 9th St. in East St. Louis
▪ Cahokia Public Library: 140 Cahokia Park Drive in Cahokia
▪ Cahokia Senior Nutrition Center: 190 Cahokia Park Drive in Cahokia
▪ Collinsville Township Senior Center: 420 E. Main in Collinsville
▪ Lou Civic Center: 213 N. Market St. in Mascoutah
▪ Lebanon Public Library: 314 W. St. Louis St. in Lebanon
▪ St. Paul United Church: 123 E. Dee St. in Lebanon
Reporter Lexi Cortes contributed to this report.