East Central Illinois crews prepared for snow
CHAMPAIGN — While many families spent Tuesday celebrating the Christmas holiday, some area public works departments were getting ready for snow to arrive in East Central Illinois.
The National Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory for Champaign, Douglas, Moultrie, Shelby and Vermilion counties from midnight to 6 p.m. Wednesday.
Snow was expected to begin shortly after 3 a.m. around Champaign and Danville and is expected to continue through today's morning hours, according to the advisory.
The heaviest snowfall, combined with strong northerly winds, will be between 3 a.m. and noon Wednesday.
The weather service expects snow accumulations of 1 to 4 inches in the area by the time the snow tapers off late Wednesday.
In addition, strong northerly winds with gusts at about 35 mph are forecast to cause blowing and drifting snow.
The combination of snow and blowing could create difficult travel conditions, reduced visibility and slippery roads.
Kris Koester, administrative services supervisor for the Champaign Public Works Department, said a crew of 12 drivers, two mechanics, a dispatcher and two supervisors were scheduled to begin work at 11:15 p.m. Tuesday for a 12-hour shift.
A second crew is scheduled to report for duty at 7 a.m. Wednesday.
"They will get the streets prepared depending on when the snow hits," Koester said. "There will be a full public works staff working from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday."
Koester said the city had not yet chosen to activate the city's sidewalk snow removal ordinance, which goes into effect after 2 inches of snow have fallen.
Tracy Wingler, maintenance supervisor for the Champaign County highway department, said he planned to have snow plow drivers ready to begin their work as early as 8 p.m. Tuesday if necessary.
"We've got all our equipment ready to go," Wingler said. "When the snow gets close to Champaign County, I'll start to call the drivers in."
Wingler said that eight snow plows would be working during the night hours and another eight during the day.
"We spent the morning Monday loading all the trucks, making sure everything was full of fuel; did the checklist," said Urbana public works operations supervisor John Collins.
He said his team was split into two different groups working 12-hour shifts beginning at midnight. He said the employees might come in a few hours earlier if the snow started before midnight.
"I'm positive we're going to get snow, probably at least two to three inches," Collins said.
Collins said there was a "pretty good chance" that Urbana will put its sidewalk snow removal ordinance into effect.
Collins offered some advice for motorists planning on traveling in the area.
"Plan ahead, watch the latest forecast, give yourself plenty of time to get where you're going, and give our plow drivers plenty of room," Collins said. "They're out there for the motorists."
Staff writer Patrick Wade contributed to this story.