Metro-East News

Schools announce closings and warming centers open up as arctic blast rolls into area

The dangers of wind chill and frostbite awareness tips

The colder the temperatures or the stronger the wind, the faster frostbite will occur. Dress properly for the cold. If you feel pain or numbness, find warm shelter. If symptoms persist seek medical attention.
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The colder the temperatures or the stronger the wind, the faster frostbite will occur. Dress properly for the cold. If you feel pain or numbness, find warm shelter. If symptoms persist seek medical attention.

Metro-east residents are being told to stay inside and some schools are closing this week as an “arctic blast” carrying sub-zero wind chill factors begins to sweep in.

The National Weather Service issued a Wind Chill Advisory for Clinton, Madison, Marion, Monroe and St. Clair counties from 6 p.m. Tuesday to 1 p.m. on Wednesday. The wind chill factors could get as low as -25 degrees.

“A Wind Chill Advisory means that very cold air and strong winds will combine to generate low wind chill values,” the advisory stated. “This will result in frostbite and lead to hypothermia if precautions are not taken.”

NWS suggested covering all exposed skin before venturing outside, as frostbite could occur in as little as 30 minutes.

A chance of snow flurries was possible between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tuesday, then a slight chance of snow after 2 p.m.

The St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency declared a County Disaster until Feb. 4, which will activate the County Emergency Operations Plan to provide resources to assist those who cannot provide care for themselves.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a disaster proclamation ahead of forecast and called the weather “potentially historic,” according to an AP report.

“This storm poses a serious threat to the well-being of people around the state, and we will use every tool at our disposal to keep our residents safe,” Pritzker said. “This disaster proclamation ensures that the state of Illinois has the flexibility to effectively and efficiently respond to the needs of local governments during this extreme weather event.”

On Tuesday, schools began announcing Wednesday closures. They included:

Belleville Township High School District 201

Belleville District 118

Sparta School District

East St. Louis School District 189

Highland Community Unit School District 5

Bethalto School District

Collinsville Community Unit School District 10

Granite City Community Unit School District #9

Harmony-Emge School District 175

Smithon School District

Smithton Grade School 130

O’Fallon Township High School

Alton School District 11

Red Bud School District 132

Freeburg High School 77

Freeburg Grade School 70

St. Libory Grade School 30

Dupo District 196

Signal Hill School District 181

Steeleville Community Unit School District #138

Columbia Community Unit School District 4

See KSDK 5 for a complete list of school closings.

Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert sent a notice out Tuesday morning announcing that trash collection on Wednesday was canceled. Belleville residents with trash pick-up days on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday of this week should expected the service to be delayed by one day.

Area warming centers include:

Calvary Lutheran at 6606 W. Main St. in Belleville will be open overnight from 7 p.m. Tuesday until Thursday afternoon.

O’Fallon has a warming center, located at 285 N. 7 Hills Road

Granite City announced the Township Hall, at 2060 Delmar Blvd., would be open from 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through 8:30 a.m. as a warming center. The center will be monitored by a police officer at all times, the announcement stated.

Highland announced the Weinheimer Community Center would be a designated warming center from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. If anyone needs access to this facility after business hours, however, they can contact the police department at 654-2131.

Caseyville will open the township building on Bunkum Road between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. After those hours, people can visit the Fairview Heights Police Department lobby to warm up.

The Edwardsville YMCA will be open to those who need to warm up during business hours.

The St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency said it would keep followers of its Facebook page updated with any school closings.

Several agencies also posted reminders to bring pets inside during these wintery conditions. The Humane Society of Missouri’s winter weather motto is “Under 35, bring pets inside!”

Collinsville police posted on Facebook to remind people that Illinois law requires pet owners to provide adequate shelter from the weather.

“And before you say, ‘but my Husky likes the cold,’ realize that this morning we passed a penguin walking back to the arctic circle because it was too cold here. So, do the right thing and ensure your pets are staying warm,” the post stated.

In another post, Collinsville police reminded people to not leave their running cars unaccompanied — either at the gas station or in the driveway.

“It only takes a few seconds for someone to jump in and drive off with your car,” the post stated.

Take extra precautions when traveling

Illinois State Police requested the public’s cooperation while driving on the roadways in the coming days, stating that the extremely low temperatures could make traveling dangerous.

“The men and women on patrol will be facing an extra degree of risk to protect the lives of all motorists in this severe weather,” acting Director Brendan F. Kelly said in the release. “The fewer drivers on the road, the fewer accidents, and the safer everyone will be. Please do them, and all first responders, a favor by staying home or if you must drive, do so with extra care.”

The release asked drivers to mindful of troopers working on the sides of the roads: “please slow down, and if there is an adjacent lane and you can move over, do so. “

The agency offered up these safety tips for traveling in the cold weather:

Allow extra time to get to your destination.

▪ Avoid unnecessary lane changes, reduce your speed, and increase your following distance on snowy or ice covered roadways.

▪ Watch out for black ice — roads that appear clear may be treacherous. Take it slow when approaching intersections, off-ramps, and bridges, all are prone to black ice.

▪ Dress warmly for the weather. Dress in layers of loose-fitting, lightweight clothing in anticipation of unexpected winter weather emergencies.

▪ Make sure someone is aware of your travel plans. If traveling a long distance, let someone know your route and estimated departure and arrival time.

▪ Make sure your cell phone is fully charged. Also, be sure to keep a cell phone charger with you in your vehicle.

▪ Always carry an emergency car care kit that contains jumper cables, flares or reflectors, windshield washer fluid, a small ice scraper, traction material, blankets, non-perishable food and a first aid kit.

▪ If you do get stranded, make sure snow is not blocking your exhaust.

▪ Motorists interested in getting up to date road conditions can go to www.gettingaroundillinois.com

Ameren Illinois also sent out a reminder to people to stay safe and warm during these frigid temperatures.

“With the threat of severe weather forecasted for most of our service territory this week, we are taking additional steps to ensure the safety of our customers and personnel,” Richard Mark, chairman and president of Ameren Illinois, said in a release. “In addition to activating the Emergency Operations Center to monitor the potential for disruptions to our system, we’re reducing the amount of time personnel are outdoors and making sure call-outs will be handled by at least two people so no one is traveling alone.”

The Emergency Operations Center was activated at 4 p.m. Monday.

Hana Muslic has been a public safety reporter for the Belleville News-Democrat since August 2018, covering everything from crime and courts to accidents, fires and natural disasters. She is a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Journalism and her previous work can be found in The Lincoln Journal-Star and The Kansas City Star.

Belleville News-Democrat news editor Dana Rieck was selected as Editor and Publisher’s “25 Under 35 Newspaper Leaders” for 2018 and works with the Online News Association in St. Louis. She attended Colorado State University and grew up in Loveland, Colorado.

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