LIVE: Winter weather roundup Feb. 5, 2014

LIVE: Winter weather roundup Feb. 5, 2014

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C-U roads update

The snow may have stopped, but crews still have plenty of work to do to clear the streets and roads in East Central Illinois.

Champaign Public Works Department spokesman Kris Koester said blowing and drifting snow has been a significant problem on some streets like Kirby Avenue and Windsor Road.

Koester said crews are mostly focused on getting primary routes plowed and driveable before possibly moving on to secondary streets late Wednesday night.



Koester added that the excess snow that is piling up from plowing, especially in the downtown and campustown areas, will be taken to vacant lots in the city.

Meanwhile in Urbana, Public Works Operations Manager John Collins said crews are starting to make progress on secondary and cul-de-sac routes, but the blowing and drifting snow is creating some issues on outlying streets in the city.  So, Collins said it will probably be sometime Thursday before the streets are cleared.

Urbana Public Works Director Bill Gray also urged residents, property owners and contractors to not clear snow into the public right of way, like sidewalks and streets.  Gray said crews have been working long hours on several different occassions this winter to make the streets safe for drivers.

--Michael Kiser

Shelter options

With temperatures expected to drop below zero on Wednesday night, Champaign-Urbana area residents once again have several options to escape the cold weather.

The Times Center at 70 East Washington in Champaign will be open to those who need to escape the frigid weather, with dinner being served at 6 p.m.  Then at 7 p.m., you'll be taken to the Savoy United Methodist Church where you can stay overnight.

The satellite jail lobby in Urbana also remains open to those who need to get out of the cold weather.  And two warming centers are also open in Champaign during normal business hours. They are at the Department of Human Services locations at 1307 North Mattis Avenue and at 705 North Country Fair Drive.

--Michael Kiser

County roads update

The good news this Wednesday morning is that winds have died down. The bad news is, Champaign County has blown through its snow removal overtime budget as of Tuesday and salt supplies are really low.

“Right now, it’s blowing pretty good (in the rural areas),” said Champaign County Highway Maintenance Supervisor Tracy Wingler. “Visibility is not bad but it is blowing."

And if the winds stay down, Wingler said his crews “shouldn’t have a problem getting these roads to look decent come tomorrow morning.”

The cold temperatures forecast for the next few days will put a damper on getting snow pack and ice off the roads, he said.

As with most of the heavy snowfall events, crews have been out around the clock.

“Our overtime budget was pretty well shot as of yesterday evening,” Wingler said Wednesday morning. “My salt is down to almost nothing. I have 200 tons ordered. We’ve already filled the 1,000 tons I asked for. I can go up to 200 more tons but they won’t deliver until they have all the contracts filled. It could be two months or possibly next week. I just don’t know.”

Wingler said his crews have salted over 30 times in December and January compared to about nine times for all of the last winter season.

Wingler said motorists seem to be getting the message about staying off the roads when the weather is dangerous as calls for service to the emergency operations center, which is a center for ambulance, police and fire services, were really low.

“Last night it was very, very quiet. We had maybe only six ambulance calls and nothing really serious. They said that is real low for a regular night. People are starting to pay attention and stay off the roads when we ask them to. It helps us a bunch. It’s hard for those ambulances to get around in this weather,” he said.

State Police update

As of 10:15 a.m., Illinois State Police at Pesotum reported handling numerous crashes and disabled vehicles on Interstates 57, 72, and 74 and state highways in the nine counties of District 10.

Troopers have noticed a significant increase in weather-related incidents, including three crashes resulting in injuries.

Several motorists have been involved in property damage crashes due to black ice. Motorists are reminded to yield to emergency vehicles and snow plows while traveling.

District 10 has handled 28 crashes, 52 motorist assists, and at least three snow plow-related crashes on state highways, with a total of 138 weather-related incidents since the storm began Tuesday.

Interim District 10 Commander Jamal Simington said additional troopers are on the roads and although roads may appear to be clear and safe, they remain very hazardous. A safe speed is one which allows a driver to stop and steer safely in these conditions, so please slow down and be aware of the slick conditions. Blowing and drifting snow will cause white-out conditions. Extremely cold temperatures and dangerous wind chills can be deadly. Stranded motorists are encouraged to remain inside their vehicles.

Paxton: drivers asked to stay off Market this afternoon.

The city of Paxton is having snow hauled off Market Street on Wednesday afternoon. Drivers are asked to stay off the street starting at 2 p.m. while that job is accomplished.

Wisconsin basketball team stays night

The Badgers beat the Illini 75-63 on Tuesday night in front of 4,185 fans at State Farm Center.

Scheduled to return to Madison following the game, the team instead spent the night. Trouble with a de-icing truck led to the delay.

Tuesday's game was played despite the conditions because the teams were in town and the officials were in place, UI athletic director Mike Thomas said.

Read about the game here

6.5 inches reported at the Illinois State Water Survey

Champaign-Urbana officially received 6.5 inches of snow between 8 a.m. Tuesday and 8 a.m. today, according to the Illinois State Water Survey.

So far this winter season Champaign-Urbana has accumulated 32.3 inches of snow.

A National Weather Service observer reported 6.7 inches of snow in Ogden, as of 5:30 a.m. today.

The greatest amount reported to the weather service so far this morning was 8.5 inches at Windsor in Shelby County.

Road conditions

Check the Illinois Department of Transportation's website for winter road conditions here.

Also, Twitter is a good place for timely warnings. (Follow us at twitter.com/news_gazette).

Closings

Check here for reported closings. If you have a closing to report, please call WDWS at 217-351-5300.

Shoveling? Try to minimize risk of heart attack

CHAMPAIGN — Cold weather and snow shoveling can deal a deadly double punch if you're primed for a heart attack and don't know it.

So before you lift a shovel, here's some advice to consider from Dr. Abe Kocheril, a cardiac electrophysiologist at Christie Clinic.

People with unknown plaque build-up in their arteries (a condition called atherosclerosis) are a concern because they don't know they could potentially be adding stress to a diseased heart, Kocheril says.

Shoveling is hard work that can increase the heart rate and blood pressure.

The cold weather adds to the risk because it can cause coronary artery spasms, along with bronchial spasms that cause shortness of breath for people with asthma.

"We know if plaque is present, the spasm is more likely to happen where the plaque is," Kocheril says.

What you can do?

"Bundle up," Kocheril advises. "If you limit where the skin is exposed, there is less of this spasm that puts people at a disadvantage."

Next: Avoid overstressing your heart by taking frequent breaks while shoveling, he advises. And limit that heart stress by lifting smaller amounts of snow.

For those who have known heart issues, take nitroglycerine medication before heading out to shovel, so arteries can dilate in advance, Kocheril advises.

"The idea is to avoid the trouble ahead of time," he says.

When someone has had a heart attack, cardiac rehab is encouraged to get back in shape to deal with daily activities and the issues of life again, Kocheril says, "and one of them is snow."

The American Heart Association further advises:

— Don't eat a heavy meal just before or soon after shoveling, because that can add more stress to your heart.

— Avoid drinking alcohol before shoveling: It can increase your sensation of warmth and cause you to underestimate the excess strain you're under in the cold.

-- Debra Pressey

Track buses by text or online

Hate standing in the cold waiting for the bus? Riders on Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District buses are taking advantage of ways to find out remotely when the next bus is on the way.

The district has Web, text and mobile apps that let users enter a bus stop and retrieve real-time information about what buses are on the way and how far they are from the stop.

The first big storm of the year came on Jan. 6, when most area schools were not in session. For comparison, here are stats provided by the MTD, indicating usage of the district's technologies for that day and for Jan. 21, the first day of the semester at the University of Illinois:

Technology Jan. 6 Jan. 21
Text 623 5,517
Mobile web (m.cumtd.com)  5,011 37,091
Desktop website (cumtd.com)  150,640 368,170
API* 166,691 204,477

* The district's API (the programming interface used by smartphone apps) was "pinged" 166,691 times on Jan. 6 and 204,477 times on Jan. 21. But those numbers don't correlate exactly with unique users, according to Jan Kijowski, spokeswoman for the district.

-- Michael Howie

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