JOLIET – Snowplows in Joliet and Will County were busy early Friday morning clearing the streets and highways after a heavy snowfall that led to numerous school closings.
Before the snow even began Thursday night, many school districts in Will and Grundy counties called it off in anticipation of burdensome weather conditions Friday.
Catholic Charities also closed down its offices in both counties because of the extreme weather, but left its homeless shelters open.
The National Weather Service issued a hazardous weather outlook and a winter storm warning, the latter of which is in effect until 9 p.m. Friday. Heavy snowfall is expected, and travel will be “very difficult to impossible at times,” meteorologists said.
“A winter storm warning for snow means severe winter weather conditions are expected. If you must travel, keep an extra flashlight, food and water in your vehicle in case of an emergency,” NWS meteorologists said.
The NWS predicted snow accumulation of 4 to 7 inches throughout Will County on Thursday night, with temperatures hovering about 20 degrees. Between 3 to 5 inches of snow is expected for Friday. Temperatures might be as high as 30 degrees.
The snowfall will continue into Saturday. There is a 40 percent chance of light snow Sunday morning.
NWS meteorologist Charles Mott said Thursday that the heaviest snowfall will be in northern Will County and will affect towns such as Joliet and Romeoville. He said the amount of snow accumulation is expected to be between 11 to 12 inches in those areas.
“Most of the snow will fall [Thursday night],” Mott said.
School, agency closings
The following school districts are closed Friday:
• Plainfield School District 202
• Joliet Public Schools District 86
• Joliet Township High School
• Lockport Township High School District 205
• Minooka School District 201
• Minooka High School District 111
• Channahon School District 17
• New Lenox School District 122
• Joliet Junior College campuses and centers
Catholic Charities also closed its offices in Downers Grove, Joliet, Crest Hill, Morris and Kankakee for Friday. Cornerstone Services closed its locations in Joliet and Kankakee. All Greater Joliet Area YMCAs are closed.
Joliet plows were on the streets by 7 p.m. Thursday, roadways engineer Mike Eulitz said.
But plows likely would need to stick to main streets through most of Friday because of the heavy snowfall, he said.
“We figure about 7 or 8 (Friday) night we should be done. Then, we’ll be getting into neighborhood streets,” Eulitz said.
Plows will be removing snow from major residential streets and main subdivision streets through most of Friday, he said. But the smaller neighborhood streets are not likely to get plowed until nighttime.
Joliet and other towns also will implement bans on street parking that go into effect with snowfalls of 2 inches or more so that plows can clear the streets.
Will County Sheriff’s Deputy Chief Tom Budde said sheriff’s deputies were working with the county transportation staff to help target problem areas, such as roads cutting through open farm fields where sudden snowdrifts can be a hazard to drivers.
“We’re monitoring the storm’s progress on our weather tracking system,” Budde said.
He recommended avoiding driving.
“If they do go out, use some common sense. Keep gas tanks full or at least half full. Keep some extra blankets in the car just in case,” Budde said.
Ray Semplinski, county transportation maintenance administrator, said snowplows will begin their day at 4:30 a.m. Friday, and once the snowing starts to ebb, they will apply salt on roadways. He said the plows only will work on county highways.
“We do what we can, and we try to make every one of our roads a priority,” Semplinski said.
Semplinski urged drivers to be patient if they come up behind a snowplow and to not drive around them. He said snowplow drivers are working to make the roads safer.
“Give them a little patience; give them a little time,” he said.
Illinois Tollway officials said in a news release they were deploying their full fleet of 196 snowplows in response to the heavy snowfall. Snowplow drivers will continue working into Friday.
“We’re urging drivers to slow down and allow extra time for their trips, especially since heavy snow and strong winds could at times reduce visibility,” said Greg Bedalov, executive director for Illinois Tollway.
Illinois Tollway officials recommend drivers do not make sudden lane changes and always use their turn signal when driving. They also should not drive too closely to other cars, and should reduce their speed on ramps and toll plazas.