Local public works crews spent Friday making preparations for a snowstorm that is forecast to reach the area this weekend.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch in effect from late tonight through Monday morning for Champaign, Coles, DeWitt, Douglas, Edgar, McLean, Piatt and Vermilion counties.
A winter storm watch means there is a potential for significant snow.
The weather service anticipates total accumulations could range from 5 to 8 inches, with some of the snow accumulations held down due to a mix of snow and rain in areas to the south.
Winds of 15 to 25 mph and gusts of up to 30 mph are forecast for Sunday night.
“These winter storms toward the end of March can be doozies,” said John Collins, operations manager for Urbana Public Works. “We worked throughout the day (Friday) preparing our trucks and equipment.”
Collins said he plans on having two teams of six to eight trucks working alternate shifts around the clock once the storm arrives until the snow has been plowed.
“Hopefully the temperatures will stay up, and this snow will melt fairly quickly,” he said.
Bob Scott, service and operations manager for the city of Danville, said public works crews spent Friday preparing. He said they put all the plows on the trucks and loaded salt into them and did other minor mechanical duties in preparation.
“We thought we were done with it; we were hoping,” he said. “But we’ve got all the trucks ready.”
Scott said he’s been following the weather reports since Tuesday when he first had an idea Danville could be getting some weather. He said the reports keep changing, but the department is as ready as it can be and has plenty of salt, especially since little has been used this winter. He said he was hoping to end the winter with a full barn of salt.
Tracy Wingler, maintenance supervisor for the Champaign County Highway Department, said he believes it is unusual for our area to get a winter storm this late in March.
“I’ve been doing this for more than 30 years, and this is one of the latest storms of this magnitude that I can recall,” Wingler said.
Wingler said he plans on having eight trucks plowing snow from county roads at all times once the snow reaches our area.
“As soon as the storm hits, we will go into 12-hour snow shifts,” Wingler said.
Kris Koester, administrative services supervisor for Champaign Public Works, said the city’s first snow plow crews are scheduled to begin work at 11:15 p.m. Saturday.
One team of 13 drivers each will be plowing city streets and two others plowing city parking lots for a 12-hour shift, with another team taking over for a second shift.
“We are committed to work at least through 11:30 p.m. Sunday,” Koester said. “We’ll be busy.”
Rantoul Public Works Director Greg Hazel said he has his staff on alert in preparation for the anticipated winter storm.
“We have our trucks loaded with salt and ready for action if the weather requires it,” Hazel said. “When the storm arrives, we’ll probably start with four or five vehicles and then rotate in additional staff to help out as we go through the winter storm.”