Extreme Winter Weather

Image courtesy of the News Tribune
Lori Boekeloo of Hennepin nearly jumped out of her skin Sunday night when a tree was blown over by wind and right into her house.

“It knocked everything off of my kitchen wall and stuff from the counter onto the floor, but did not break windows or do damage to the roof, miraculously,” Boekeloo said.

“I believe God was protecting me and my home,” she said. “On a night like this, a broken window or structural damage would have been devastating.”

Though only about 2 inches of snow fell since Saturday night the addition of howling winds and tumbling temperatures have the week off to a rough start. Area police reported dozens of stranded vehicles and minor crashes amid blizzard-like conditions — gusts of 52 mph were reported in Peru — and area residents woke today to bitter cold that will plunge into record or near-record territory.

State police issued a blizzard warning at 9 p.m. Sunday, with zero visibility reported on rural roads where fierce winds left surfaces slick and snow covered.

“Travel is not advised,” Lt. Randy Ness said emphatically. “White-out conditions have caused many incidents requiring emergency services response. With the temperature dropping, conditions could quickly become life-threatening.”

Putnam County and Marshall County authorities reported numerous vehicles in ditches during last night’s storm.

“A lot of them are still there,” Putnam County sheriff Kevin Doyle said this morning. “It was one of the worst I’ve seen for that short period of time. They just couldn’t move, couldn’t see.”

Conditions were as bad or worse in La Salle County, including Route 251 south of Mendota, which was closed due to a head-on crash and many vehicles stranded off road.

“My list is probably 40, 50 vehicles right now,” said Carol Ramer of Ramer Towing, which was among the companies ordered off the roadway around 7 p.m. Sunday.

Another 50 people were removed from Interstate 39 and Route 251 in the Tonica area during the winter storm, Tonica Fire Department said in a press release.

Many roads have been reopened, but authorities still are urging motorists to stay put.

“Right now we don’t have any closed roads but use caution when you’re out there,” said Larry Kinzer, La Salle County highway engineer.

“It’s not a powder snow,” observed Mike Adkins of Adkins Towing in Paw Paw. “What’s drifted, it’s like hitting a brick wall.”

If the snow and wind were not enough, North Central Illinois now is under a wind-chill warning.

Ed Fenelon, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Romeoville, attributed the bitter cold to another “buckling” of the upper-level jet stream that’s forced Arctic air unusually far south — and this on the heels of 2 inches of weekend snow that became blizzard-like in 52-mph gusts reported in Peru.

At press time this morning, Fenelon reported a base temperature of minus-2 degrees and wind chills of minus-25, en route to an overnight base temperature of minus-20 degrees.

“We may touch as low as minus-40 with the wind chill,” he warned. “It’s not out of the question.”

Most schools in the Illinois Valley already had canceled classes today by 8 p.m. Sunday. (See the NewsTribune website for a complete list of closings.)

La Salle-Peru Township High School is among the districts that readily declared an emergency day in light of Mother Nature’s one-two punch, but which soon will have to consider truncating vacations or extending the school year as they run out of spare days.

“We have used three of our five emergency days,” L-P superintendent Steven Wrobleski said Friday, before the latest cancellation.

School could be out Tuesday, as well, though the wind-chill warning lapses at noon tomorrow with moderate relief to follow. Wednesday will bring a high of 23 degrees with plenty of sun — enough light and heat to at least melt the roads and sidewalks — followed by a chance of snow Thursday and Friday.

While it’s too soon to say winter 2014 is the worst in Illinois history — 52 days left until spring, folks — Fenelon said a case could be made for worst January in a long time.

Through Sunday, the NWS recorded 33.1 inches of snow in January, making it the third-snowiest January (and fourth snowiest month) in Illinois history.

“So if you think it’s been snowing a lot, you’re right,” Fenelon said. “And to add insult to injury, the snow has been frequent. Both Chicago and Rockford had 27 days of accumulating snowfall (0.1 inch) over the past 50 days.

“So the folks who think they’ve been shoveling a lot? Yeah, they have.”

Source: News Tribune