CHAMPAIGN — As a winter storm system moving into central Illinois threatens to end Champaign-Urbana's snowless streak on Thursday, city public works crews say they are prepared for anything nature throws at them.
They have been for weeks, but the plows haven't rolled out of the garages yet.
"We are prepared already," said Champaign Administrative Services Supervisor Kris Koester. "We started about a month and a half ago."
The salt domes are full, Koester said, and a salt brine mix is ready to coat the roads. Koester said city officials are not expecting anything major, but they will be watching the weather closely.
"At this point, it's going to be business as usual (Thursday)," Koester said.
The National Weather Service on Wednesday forecast that heavy thunderstorms early Thursday morning will turn into snow by late morning and continue through the afternoon.
Here's the weather service's Lincoln website, which covers counties in East Central Illinois.
Up to an inch of snow could fall in the Champaign-Urbana area on Thursday, mainly north of Interstate 74. The National Weather Service is predicting anywhere between six to 10 inches in northwest Illinois into southern Wisconsin.
"So, basically, we're just kind of waiting to see what's happening to make a determination if we'll go into a 24-hour mode," Koester said.
Urbana snow crews are doing the same.
"We're just double checking the equipment, making sure everything is prepared, ready to go," said Urbana Operations Supervisor John Collins.
The biggest problem, he said, might not be the snow. The National Weather Service says Champaign-Urbana could see wind gusts as high as 30, 40 or 50 mph.
That makes clearing roads of snow harder if it just keeps blowing back.
"The biggest problem, I think, is going to be the wind," Collins said.
The National Weather Service encourages those traveling anywhere in the Midwest on Thursday night to keep checking the winter storm forecasts. The storm could still shift and forecasts of where the heaviest snow will fall could change.
Champaign-Urbana snow crews will be watching.
"It's hard to say what the weather's going to do," Collins said.
This will be the second year that an Urbana ordinance requiring property owners to remove snow from sidewalks in three areas when accumulations top 2 inches will be in effect. Officials called last year a trial-year for the ordinance.
But in its trial year, the ordinance was only activated once. The rules affecting the downtown, campus and South Philo Road areas are back again this year, unchanged, for a second winter.
The city of Champaign has had a sidewalk snow removal ordinance governing the downtown and campus areas, since 2007.
Both cities declare the ordinance in effect after two inches of snow has fallen. They issue online notifications and alert local media when property owners need to start shoveling.