Photo: Armed with 14 years of public works service, not to mention a snowplow, Elburn resident Mike Stoffa helps keep downtown Elburn clear as the blizzard of 2011 arrives Tuesday. Photo by Ryan Wells
Blizzard shuts down travel, reduces communication
by Keith Beebe, Ben Draper, Lynn Meredith, Ryan Wells
Regional—Like much of Illinois, the Kaneland area is attempting to dig out and restore travel and communications following a historic blizzard that entered the area Tuesday and was still blowing as of press time Wednesday.
With the Kaneland area in the heart of the area projected to be the hardest hit with what forecasters referred to as a historic winter storm, community leaders spent days preparing for the worst.
“It’s not like a thunderstorm, where there is no forewarning,” said Sgt. Erich Schlachta of the Elburn Police Department. “We’ve been preparing for the last five days. We have all the crews out and taken the steps to make sure we’re prepared for the weather.”
Sugar Grove Village President Sean Michels said on Tuesday that village Public Works employees had begun working 12-hour shifts to salt and clear the roads beginning Monday night.
“It’s a 12-on, 12-off schedule,” Michels said. “The primary objective is to keep all main roads open and clear. Cul-de-sacs and ulterior roads are less important, so if workers get caught up, they can go back and plow the side streets and get those open.”
The village set up a warming center with the Fire District in the event of a power outage. “It’s nice because the Fire District building has a kitchenette where (people) can make coffee and have water,” Michels said.
According to Sugar Grove Village Clerk Cynthia Galbreath, when officials learned that forecasters expected the storm to continue well into Wednesday, and possibly Thursday, they made the decision to close all village administrative offices, as well as Tuesday’s scheduled Village Board meeting.
“We discourage all unnecessary travel on Wednesday and if necessary Thursday,” Galbreath wrote in a statement sent out by e-mail on Tuesday. “The conditions are expected to be extremely dangerous.”
Throughout the area, municipalities and organizations announced closures for Tuesday and Wednesday. Kaneland focused on getting its students home as soon as possible Tuesday, and will evaluate for how long events and classes will be canceled.
“We canceled all activities at the end of the day on Tuesday to get kids home as soon as possible, and we’ve made the call to not conduct school (Wednesday),” Kaneland Superintendent Jeff Schuler said. “The message that will go out to parents about (Wednesday) is that we’ll make a decision later in the afternoon that day as to what our status will be for Thursday.”
Waubonsee announced on its website that the college closed Tuesday at 2 p.m., and remained closed on Wednesday. The college will determine when classes and activities will resume prior to 5 a.m. on Thursday. That announcement will be made at www.waubonsee.edu.
As the storm approached on Monday, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn issued a state disaster declaration, and informed residents that state agencies were preparing in advance of the expected several days of heavy snow, ice and blizzard conditions.
“We will be increasing efforts to make sure that our roads are clear and that our most vulnerable residents are staying indoors and staying warm,” Quinn said.
Quinn said he activated the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) in Springfield on Monday to coordinate the state’s response to the storm. Representatives from more than a dozen state agencies will man the SEOC 24 hours a day throughout the storm.
The Kane County Emergency Operations Center was activated at noon on Tuesday, from which county response activities were coordinated. Just before 4 a.m. on Wednesday, Kane County Sheriff Lt. Pat Gengler sent an email to area media outlets advising them of the deterioration of all roadways in the area.
“… all roads in Western Kane County are impassable and closed for travel,” he wrote. “At this time, plows are not able to run and tow trucks are also not functioning. Anyone who attempts to travel does so with very little chance of immediate assistance should they become stuck … We really need people to stay where they are and not drive on the roads.”
With the storm winding down as of press time, the biggest complication to area efforts to resume regular activities will be the wind and arctic air that will continue through Thursday. The National Weather Service said wind chills could go as low as -39 degrees on Thursday, and while the temperatures will rise through the weekend, they will also be accompanied by more snow.
Chicagoland snowfall facts
Chicago’s 10 biggest snowstorms since 1886:
1. 23.0 inches Jan 26-27, 1967
2. 21.6 inches Jan 1-3, 1999
3. 19.2 inches Mar 25-26, 1930
4. 18.8 inches Jan 13-14, 1979
5. 16.2 inches Mar 7-8, 1931
6. 15.0 inches Dec 17-20, 1929
7. 14.9 inches Jan 30, 1939
8. 14.9 inches Jan 6-7, 1918
9. 14.3 inches Mar 25-26, 1970
10. 14.0 inches Jan 18-20, 1886
Number of snow storms
since 1886 that have produced 10
or more inches of snow
A 10-inch snowstorm occurs
once every 3 years
A 15-inch snowstorm occurs
once every 15 years
The most recent 10-inch-plus
Jan. 21-23, 2005
The most snowfall in one calendar day (Jan. 2, 1999).