UPDATE: Crashes bog down I-57 in Champaign County

UPDATE: Crashes bog down I-57 in Champaign County

9:45 A.M. UPDATE

This morning's icy conditions have led to multiple slideoffs and crashes on Interstate 57 in northern Champaign County, specifically beween mileposts 250 and 257 near Rantoul.

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8 A.M. UPDATE: Freezing rain has started in parts of Champaign County, state police urging motorists to use caution until conditions improve.

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While far less snow than forecasted hit the area last weekend, many icy roads remain.

That's partly by design, said Champaign Public Works spokesman Kris Koester, explaining that adding salt and calcium chloride would have made roads even slicker.

"We had actually planned to leave some of the roads a little icy or with a little snow because in certain temperatures, putting chemicals or salt down, it tends to refreeze and makes it more dangerous," Koester said Monday. "So the plan all along was to do as much as we could, and we got most of the primary roads down to pavement by Sunday."

But with warmer weather forecast for today, crews will be back out in the morning to clear the rest, Koester said.

"Hopefully (today), the temperature will cooperate so the chemicals will work, and we can pick up everything we had to leave behind," he said.

Urbana Public Works Operations Manager John Collins said just the right conditions made roads particularly slippery.

"A lot of the reason why the roads, either in Champaign or Urbana, or out on the highways, still have ice on them is for the most part because of the consistency of the snow, then having traffic pack it down before there was an opportunity to plow, and the low temperatures, and that little bit of rain," Collins said.

After less than an inch of snow fell Saturday, temperatures dropped into the teens Sunday and Monday, with lows near zero.

At those temperatures, the regular salt used to melt snow and ice becomes much less effective, Collins said.

"It depends on whether it's cloudy or sunshine, but when it's below 18 degrees, salt's effectiveness really starts to slow down," he said. "So this past weekend because of the temperature, we did put a little calcium chloride with our salt, which helps it work down better to about 10 degrees."

Collins said he hadn't heard of many problems in Urbana. But he encouraged drivers to be prepared.

"Winter looks like it's finally showed up," he said. "Please plan ahead. It's always best to have a few safety items with you in your vehicle when traveling, like a blanket, flashlights, an extra coat.

"And give yourself plenty of time to get where you're going."

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