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Wind, snow, below-zero temperatures

Winter storm wreaks havoc on county

Bureau County was pretty much closed down by the winter storm that slammed the county on Sunday and Monday with sub-zero temperatures, high winds and more than 6 inches of fresh snow, causing extensive blowing and drifting of roads.

Schools across the county announced plans on Sunday to be closed on Monday. Businesses, libraries and governmental offices across the county announced they would be closed on Monday, or possibly opening late and closing early.

On Monday, Bureau County Sheriff John Thompson said there have been lots of traffic accidents, and the road conditions “are terrible.”

There are lots of stranded vehicles throughout the area, some of which are occupied, Thompson said. Authorities have been in touch by cell phone with those occupants, and every effort is being made to get to them as soon as possible. The sheriff’s department has limited resources and is doing the best it can, the sheriff said.

If someone does become stranded in his vehicle, it’s best to stay in the vehicle which will provide some shelter, Thompson said. Venturing outside of the vehicle could “prove to be a critical event” for the person, he added.

The eastern part of Bureau County may have gotten hit a bit harder, but then again that might just be where a lot of the heavy drifting has occurred, Thompson said.

The Princeton Water Treatment Plant recorded a total of 6 inches of new snow during the weekend, with 3.5 inches on Saturday and 2.5 inches of new snow on Sunday.

Bureau County Highway Engineer John Gross pulled the county’s snow removal trucks from the roads on Sunday evening and then sent them back out early Monday morning, but only for a short time.

On Monday, Gross said the county trucks were pulled off the roads again at 8:15 a.m. Monday due to the extreme cold and numerous equipment failures with hydraulic problems and the fuel gelling in the vehicles. The trucks were brought back to the garage to warm up and then sent back out again, Gross said, adding the sub-zero temperatures, coupled with the high winds, is very hard on the equipment. Some drifts are 6 to 8 feet high and over the cabs of the trucks. The snow is like concrete and has to be chiseled away. He said the tough conditions are widespread throughout the county.

Gross’ recommendation is for residents to sit tight for a couple days and to stay off the roads. Some roads are passable, but no one wants to get stuck or stranded in this kind of weather.

Even when temperatures improve, it will still take several days to clean up all the roads, Gross said.

Travel conditions are not any better statewide. The Illinois Department of Transportation has announced 1,755 snow removal trucks and 3,700 full-time and part-time employees have been deployed statewide to clear the state roads. The winter storm has impacted 90 percent of the state, Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider said.

The Illinois State Police (ISP) has also issued a weather travel advisory and urged motorists to plan ahead and take the necessary safety precautions while traveling on interstates and state roads.

According to ISP Captain Robert Atherton, the drifting snow, wet and icy road conditions may disrupt travel, and motorists should allow extra time if travel is absolutely necessary. Wind chills were expected to reach 40 to 50 below zero on Monday. Many roadways in the District 17 area, including portions of Route 92 in northern Bureau County, are drifting, impassable and closed at times, he said.

“Motorists should take every safety precaution while driving during extreme weather conditions so that they arrive and depart to and from their destinations safely,” Atherton said. “Reducing speed, avoiding distractions and practicing safe driving habits are crucial, especially when roads and interstates are icy and visibility is reduced.”

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