O'Fallon Progress

Winter Storm Gia weathered well in O’Fallon, but jogged memories of Blizzard of ’82

O’Fallon weathered Winter Storm Gia well, city officials say, and with more inclement weather predicted for the weekend, making citizens aware of precautions, policies and procedures are key.

Mayor Herb Roach said he thinks 7 to 9 inches of snow blanketed the city, although that is not an official today. Snow began falling mid-afternoon Friday, Jan. 11, impacted rush hour, and continued off and on through Saturday.

Winter Storm Gia, which dumped heavy snow across portions of the Rockies, Plains, Midwest and mid-Atlantic from Jan. 10 to 13, impacted travel, snarled traffic (some highways at a standstill) and forced widespread cancellations.

The National Weather Service reported that Gia’s highest snow total was 20.3 inches in Columbia, Mo., Jan. 11 to 12. St. Louis recorded 10.9 inches.

According to local weathercasters, it was the sixth biggest snow accumulation in the St. Louis metropolitan region. It was the biggest since a blizzard hit Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014, dumping 9 to 11 inches across the region.

Roach said he was impressed by how hard the city departments worked, and so were residents.

“Our crews were out covering over 150 miles of roads for over 32 straight hours. This also included our fire houses and police department drives,” he said. “They did a very good job. I have received many positive comments from our citizens.”

With O’Fallon’s interstate access and main roads well-traveled on any given day, making sure traffic flowed during was important, the mayor said.

“The first priority was to keep all major arteries and snow routes open, then make sure citizens and emergency vehicles had passage on all streets,” he said.

Eric Van Hook, director of Public Safety, said the O’Fallon Public Works department’s hard work helped keep roads passable and accidents down.

“A lot of credit goes to Public Works Director Jeff Taylor and his crew for aggressively treating and plowing the streets,” Van Hook said.

He reported that the Metro East Communications Center, which dispatches calls for police, fire and EMS in O’Fallon, Fairview Heights and Shiloh, recorded 153 calls from 3 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Monday, Jan. 11-14.

Emergency crews responded to 56 accidents, and only three with injuries. There were four hit-and-run accidents, he said. Public safety units assisted 36 motorists.

There were two fire calls for commercial and two for residential.

A total of 42 medical calls were received, and five calls needed a medical lift.

On Monday, despite mostly cleared roads and schools all open (O’Fallon Districts 90, 104 and 203, and Shiloh 85), the O’Fallon crews were diligent, the mayor said.

“They were back at it Monday morning going over areas that need more work,” he said.

Roach also pointed out how O’Fallon residents look out for each other.

“We had many neighbors that helped others and our VFW told people they would help those that needed a helping hand,” he said.

Maegen Huffine, a bartender at the VFW Post 805, said they closed at 6 p.m. Friday and were also closed Saturday. On Sunday, some customers assisted with cars, if needed.

Ward 1 Alderman Ross Rosenberg, vice chair of the Public Safety Committee, also praised city workers and the residents too.

“I do believe O’Fallon’s Public Works Department is hands-down, one of the best I know of – they are a tireless, selfless, hardworking bunch of folks who do not simply do their job at a high level, but they have a great deal of pride in providing the best service/product to their community,” Rosenberg said.

“I have heard stories of several neighborhood residents helping their neighbors too,” he said.

Most people took shelter from the storm, staying indoors most of the weekend. Some businesses closed.

Brian Keller, president of the O’Fallon Historical Society, said the museum closed Saturday. The O’Fallon Public Library was also closed.

Most downtown businesses did not open, either, including Gia’s Pizza, Parent Teacher Tools, Wood Bakery, Luckenbooth and Sweet Katie Bee’s.

In our lifetime, the granddaddy of snowstorms is the Blizzard of 1982, which resulted in 13.9 inches during a thunder-snow Jan. 30-31. The region was immobilized for days.

With the threat of a large accumulation Friday, District 8 Illinois Department of Transportation had urged residents to stay home. Crews had pre-treated roads before Friday’s storm.

Spokesmen for IDOT urged drivers to take the storm seriously, and recommended being prepared by checking on neighbors, charging your cellphone, finding your flashlight, and keeping up-to-date on conditions.

The Illinois State Police urged caution when approaching a snowplow, and said they typically operate between 25 and 35 mph. Because snowplows move snow to the side, they recommended never passing on the shoulder side of a snowplow.

IDOT recommended staying off the roadways on Saturday. If people had to go out, they urged to give yourself plenty of time, and to also let someone know your route.

If travel is necessary in Illinois during a storm, you may find information out at the website, https://www.gettingaroundillinois.com/WinterConditions/index.html

Per O’Fallon city ordinance, emergency snow routes take effect when, at any time, the depth of snow reaches 2 inches. This is to allow snowplows to effectively treat roadways. Violations of the emergency snow routes may cause your vehicle(s) to be subject to a tow at the owner’s expense.

A map of O’Fallon’s emergency snow routes may be viewed at: https://ofallon.maps.arcgis.com/apps/View/index.html

Public Safety officials say a Winter Preparedness Kit in your car should include: ice scraper, jumper cables, flashlight, flares/reflectors, traction material, windshield washer fluid, first aid kit, water, medicine, non-perishable food, blankets, and your cellphone and charger.

The National Weather Service is reporting that for the second week in a row, a major snowstorm appears likely into this weekend. Accumulating snow is expected Friday into Saturday in the Plains and Midwest.

NWS said it is too early to specify exact snowfall amounts with this storm, since that depends, in part on the exact track of the low-pressure system, the location of the rain-snow line, and other factors.

But travel could be impacted.