Motorists begin sliding off road during ice storm

Motorists begin sliding off road during ice storm

As M&M-size drops of hail peppered the ground on Saturday afternoon, more than 20 car accidents were reported around Champaign County between 2 and 3 p.m. alone, according to the Champaign County Emergency Management Agency.

"People were just driving too fast or sliding off the road or rolling over," said Bill Keller, the agency's director, on Saturday evening. He said most of the accidents were on the highways.

"Most of them were just vehicles that had gone off into the median road, the shoulder. Most of them didn't hit anything," said Master Sergeant Kevin Riddle of the Illinois State Police.

Despite the conditions, injuries were few and minor, he said.

"I know of one person that was treated and released," he said.

Jim Angel, state climatologist at the Illinois State Water Survey, summed up the day in descriptive terms.

"Today we had a real smorgasbord of weather," he said. "It's just been quite a mess out there."

Angel said he expects poor weather throughout the weekend as the temperature hovers around the freezing mark.

"It's probably going to change over to pretty much all rain," he said. "We might see some snow ... nothing you'd have to shovel."

However, if the temperature dips a few degrees below freezing, with the combination of slushy, icy water and snow on the ground, "we might have some problems," Angel said.

He pointed out a sunny spot in the gloomy weather, though.

"Once you get through the mess of this weekend, it looks like lows will be in the 20s and highs in the 40s – and that's actually normal for this time of the year," he said.

Even better: "By the end of March, the average high is 56 and the average low is 37," he said. "That feels great now."

As the poor weather continues, though, Keller recommended staying off the road, if at all possible. If you drive, "reduce the speed considerably," he said.

Riddle seconded that, telling drivers to "leave plenty of distance between you and the (cars around) you."

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