JOLIET – Residents in some areas of Will and Grundy counties likely are busy digging themselves out from at least a foot of snow – leftovers from Sunday’s brutal winter storm and the region’s first of 2015.
More than 12 inches of snow fell in parts of Will and Grundy counties as of Sunday evening. A blizzard warning kicked in midday, with accumulation totals predicted to edge closer to 16 inches in some areas by day’s end, with isolated higher amounts possible, according to the National Weather Service.
The storm – nicknamed Linus by the weather service – buried much of the region, creating hazardous roadways and foiling Super Bowl party plans for some. Even after the snow tapered off, many were left dealing with strong gusty winds, snowdrifts and downed power lines.
State, county and city law enforcement reported more than 50 crashes from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
Most were spin-outs and cars sliding into ditches, while one of the more significant weather-related crashes happened along eastbound Interstate 80 near I-355.
All lanes were blocked for at least an hour following a crash involving a semi-trailer and a sport utility vehicle, Illinois State Police Master Sgt. Wilfredo Rivera said. The individuals involved were transported to Silver Cross Hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening.
“Anytime you get the first big blast of the year, it takes people by surprise,” Rivera said. “Fortunately, this happened on Sunday and not a workday.”
Joliet police Chief Brian Benton on Sunday urged commuters to take their time driving to work Monday morning and to stay home if going out isn’t necessary. Throughout Sunday, law enforcement were “very busy” responding to calls of downed power lines as wind gusts reached up to 40 mph, he said.
The snow caused power outages throughout Will and Grundy counties, with the power outage map from ComEd showing pockets of outages throughout the area, affecting thousands of local residents. Louis Joliet Mall also was without power for several hours, and closed at 3 p.m.
ComEd spokeswoman Kim Johnson said that some of the 14,000 customers who still were without power as of 5 p.m. Sunday were located in the Joliet area. Forecasted gusty winds would likely make restoration “a challenge” throughout Sunday evening.
“As you can imagine, the roads are difficult to navigate,” Johnson said. “That makes it challenging for our crews. We’re working as quickly and safely as possible.”
By Monday morning, downed power lines are “quite possible,” Johnson said, because of the forecasted high winds overnight.
People are urged to call’s ComEd main line at 800-Edison1 rather than attempting to move downed lines themselves.
As for people digging themselves out Monday morning, Jeremy Hylka with the Joliet Weather Center warned people to take precautions when shoveling the wet snow, and said those with heart conditions and other medical conditions should definitely not shovel.
“There’s a reason why very wet snow is called ‘heart-attack snow,’” Hylka said.
Halfway up the knees
Sunday was Walleed Baeshan’s first experience with snow and he wasn’t taking any chances with getting stuck in the snow or sliding off the road.
Not only was this Joliet resident and Saudi Arabia native not driving his car, he walked to a local convenience store for a few provisions – canned tuna, tomatoes and lemon. Baeshan had no gripes with walking in snow halfway up to his knees.
“I like it,” Baeshan said of the snow.
For Chris Brown of Joliet, his Super Bowl plans weren’t derailed by the weather.
“I don’t watch the Super Bowl if the Bears aren’t in it,” Brown said.
He didn’t bother getting his car out Sunday, preferring to walk the mile to a local gas station to buy some cigarettes.
“The roads are too slick. See?” Brown said, as his boots slid on the street.
Jo Ann Pilar, a cashier at the Marathon gas station at Glenwood and Republic avenues in Joliet, said the roads weren’t too bad at 6:30 a.m. Sunday when she drove the two blocks to work. Customer traffic was light, until about 10:30 a.m., when people started coming in to gas up.
After work on Sunday, Pilar’s first stop would be her mother’s house a few blocks away, she said.
“I heard she didn’t have power,” Pilar said. “I want to be sure she is OK.”
Rodney Tordai of Morris couldn’t understand all the concern Sunday about the weather. When driving to Minooka about mid-morning, Tordai noted that both I-80 and Route 6 were plowed and salted, and traffic was moving as if the day was sunny and clear.
Around town in both Morris and Minooka was a little slick, though, Tordai added. To him, it was just a normal snowy day. He said he believed that people who didn’t know how to drive in snow were more hazardous than the snow itself.
“This is the Midwest, not Florida,” Tordai said. “This isn’t the first snow we’ve ever had.”
By Monday morning, main roads should be clear, but secondary roads and neighborhoods likely won’t be, Hylka said, so leave extra time in getting to work.
“We might see some sunshine in the afternoon,” Hylka said, “but it will still be very cold.”
The blizzard warning was in effect until midnight, with the NWS predicting widespread blowing snow before 3 a.m., then a slight chance of snow between 3 to 4 a.m., then patchy blowing snow after 4 a.m.
By 5:30 p.m., Joliet had 14 inches of snow with more falling, according to Jeremy Hylka with The Joliet Weather Center.
Meteorologist Ricky Castro from the National Weather Service said Morris had 11.5 inches of snow as of 4:23 p.m., Romeoville/Lockport area had 12.5 inches by 6 p.m., Coal City had 5.5 to 6 inches as of 7 a.m., Plainfield had 12.2 inches as of 3:05 p.m., Crest Hill had 12.1 inches and Bolingbrook had 14.4 inches. Totals were expected to only rise as snow continued to fall.
Snow, heavy at times, continued into the early evening and made roadways extremely slippery. Castro said snow could steadily fall until midnight and then taper of to a possible 1 to 3 inches of additional snow overnight.
Total accumulated snowfall was expected to be about 10 to 16 inches with several more inches of snow predicted for Tuesday night, Castro said. Total accumulation in some areas was slightly greater than originally predicted, Castro added.
“We forecasted severe weather,” Castro said, “and that is what we got.”