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Southern Illinois road crews work to clear streets after winter storm

CARBONDALE — Keith Miley, operations engineer Illinois Department of Transportation District 9, said Friday crews are making headway clearing roads throughout Southern Illinois.

“Right now you can consider the state interstate system is about 75 percent covered with ice and snow. We expect the west half of the district to rebound quicker. We are still having periods of heavy snow on the east side that will probably continue throughout the afternoon,” Miley said on Friday.

IDOT brought in a crew at 7 p.m. Thursday to work throughout the night and a new shift at 7 a.m. Friday. They were expected to make an assessment Friday afternoon about what kind of crew would be needed Friday evening.

“Hopefully, we will get things cleaned up pretty quickly,” Miley said.

County highway crews began working Thursday, too, and continued into the evening on Friday.

“It’s been a really odd storm. Some places are a sheet of ice other places just had a little sleet or have dry roads,” Beth Lipe, administrative assistant at Perry County Highway Department, said.

Roads got better in many areas throughout the day Friday. Counties on the east side of the region saw more ice and snow and had more difficulty clearing roads. Most main roads had been plowed and salted, and crews began to work on secondary roads.

“We’ve been out for 24 hours just trying to hit everything we can hit. Crews are plowing and spreading salt and cinders,” Lipe said.

Richard Sitler, The Southern 

Maadh Al_Ani looks on as he gets help from Hayder Hussein (in vehicle) to jump start a vehicle at SIU on Friday. Al_Ani is from Iraq and is studying for a Ph.D. in agriculture at SIU. Hussein is also from Iraq and has completed a Ph.D. in engineering.

Mike Rolla, Franklin County engineer, expected main county roads to be “pretty good” by the end of Friday.

“We didn’t have as much ice as we expected. That wind blew that water like a blow dryer, drying the pavement,” Rolla said. “You still need to drive with caution.”

Greg Smothers, Williamson County engineer, said all asphalt roads were partially snow-covered.

“We cleared them down as far as we possibly can get them. They are a whole lot better than they were this morning, but they are not clear. Secondary roads improving with every hour that passes,” Smothers said.

Travel was doable in the county Friday, but he urged drivers to use caution.

Much of Williamson County was covered in an inch of sleet that Smothers said was packed and very dense.

“It’s hard to get it off and get the pavement clear because it’s so cold. It’s just the nature of what we have to deal with,” Smothers said.

The southeast corner of the county received four inches of snow, which required some manpower to be shifted to the area to plow roads.

“We are planning to work tomorrow, too. We have every intention of improving things from what are today,” Smothers said Friday.

Like other counties, Jackson County Highway Department employees spent the day plowing and salting roads.

Trooper Joey Watson of Illinois State Police District 13 said IDOT has done a great job under the conditions they have had.

The Southern File Photo 

Illinois Department of Transportation snow truck driver Corey Cawthon from Carbondale chisels ice from the salt spreader on his truck in De Soto in early January.

Unfortunately, Watson said that means drivers increase their speeds, but there are still slick spots on the roads. Accidents are increasing as speeds increase.

“We are seeing precipitation blowing back over the roadway causing black ice conditions. We are starting to see those types of crashes now,” Watson said.

Watson and Miley remind drivers to slow down and keep a safe distance from other drivers. Miley also asks that drivers watch for snow plows and give them extra room.

For the latest road conditions, Miley suggests checking online at

Transportation districts in Illinois report every two hours and conditions are updated on the website based on those reports.

The National Weather Service in Paducah is forecasting temperatures with highs in the teens and lows in the single digits for Saturday that will continue into Sunday. The forecast includes a small chance of snow on Sunday, with a swath of winter precipitation on Monday, followed by even colder temperatures Monday evening. Highs on Monday will be near freezing, followed by lows at zero or below, depending on snow cover.

Saturday's indoor winter farmer's market at Carbondale Community High School was also canceled.

New Shawnee college president to share her history at "Hidden Figures" themed NAACP MLK Breakfast

ULLIN — Peggy F. Bradford grew up in Pulaski, the middle child among nine children, in a family that strongly valued education. Her parents were both teachers and aunts and uncles were also educators, some principals in the bunch.

She attended the segregated Benjamin Banneker School in Pulaski, and after schools were desegregated, attended Meridian schools, graduating from the high school just down the street from where she sits today as president of Shawnee Community College.

On Monday morning, Bradford, who spent the bulk of her professional life outside Southern Illinois, will talk about women in education and her own experience as the guest speaker at the NAACP's Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. In June, she was hired as the college's eighth president — and its first female and its first African-American president.

bhetzler / Byron Hetzler, The Southern 

Peggy Bradford, president of Shawnee Community College in Ullin, will be the guest speaker at the annual Martin Luther King Community Breakfast on Monday at SIU in Carbondale.

The breakfast begins at 8 a.m. Monday, Jan. 15 — what would have been King's 89th birthday — in Ballroom D of the Student Center at SIU Carbondale. Tickets are $5; organizers are also asking guests to bring a canned food item to donate.

This year's theme is "Hidden Figures: Women Behind The Movement." "Hidden Figures" is the title of the 2016 movie about three African-American women who were mathematicians who worked for the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory in Virginia and NASA from the 1940s to the 1960s to help launch astronaut John Glenn into space.

She said she saw herself in the "Hidden Figures" theme.

"I was just so happy to see powerful, passionate and positive role models for African-Americans and also for people of all colors because the movie is really one of overcoming barriers and challenges," Bradford said.

Plus, Bradford said, the women in the movie are part of her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.

" … The character Kevin Costner played, he was looking at NASA (saying) 'we have a goal and we want to be the first one (in space), and for us to do that, we want to utilize the talents of every individual,'" Bradford said.

It's a lesson she said she employs as a college administrator.

Costner's character, a NASA administrator, is a composite of several people at the agency.

She's among her own minority, among a handful of women college leaders. Women comprised 30.1 percent of the college presidents in 2016, and African Americans were 7.9 percent of those leaders, according to an online June 2017 article in Inside Higher Ed.

One of the organizers said she was chosen as this year's featured speaker because of her educational accomplishments.

"We chose Dr. Bradford because we believe she sends a wonderful message on how successful you can be starting at a local junior college and going on to pursue your educational goals," Stephanie Brown, one of the organizers of the breakfast, said. "Dr. Bradford also is a graduate from SIU, and (she is) from Southern Illinois and she has returned home."

Provided by Shawnee Community College 

Dr. Peggy F. Bradford, the eighth president of Shawnee Community College in Ullin, Ill., speaks at her inauguration ceremony in October 2017.

Native daughter returns home

Bradford grew up not too far from Shawnee Community College, in Pulaski, in the middle of five sisters and three brothers born to Lue Dee Sr. and Tris Jackson.

Her family placed a high value on education. Her own parents were both educators — her father taught sixth grade for 37 years at Meridian schools, her mother for more than 20 years in Cairo — and several aunts and uncles were also teachers and school principals.

"Education was just all around us," Bradford said.

Her father, Lue Dee Jackson Sr., 90, still lives in Southern Illinois; her mother, Tris Jackson, passed in 1996.

Bradford attended Benjamin Banneker school, a segregated school in Pulaski, up until fifth grade, when schools were desegregated.

She went on to high school at Meridian High School — a few short miles from where she now works — the same place where she started taking classes at Shawnee. The high school still has the Escrow program that allowed her to earn college credit.

After she earned her associate degree, she transferred to Southern Illinois University. At SIU, she earned a bachelor's degree in counseling and administration and a Master of Science in administration and community development.

Provided by Shawnee Community College 

Dr. Larry Peterson, the sixth president of Shawnee Community College in Ullin, Ill., fastens a medallion around the neck of Dr. Peggy F. Bradford before her inauguration as the college's eighth president in October 2017.

Her educational pursuits took her farther from Southern Illinois, first taking her to the University of Iowa College of Law, where she earned a law degree in corporate and business planning law, and then back to the state, to Northern Illinois University, where she earned her doctorate in higher education administration.

It was while at the University of Iowa that she met her husband, C.R., now a retired principal who also earned a doctorate. The couple has three adult children, two sons and a daughter.

She moved back to Southern Illinois from Elmsford, New York, which is north of New York City. She was the interim provost and vice president of academic affairs at State University of New York Westchester Community College.

She still visited Southern Illinois about four times a year, before relocating back here for the SCC president post.

What's it like being tapped as the eighth president of at Shawnee?

Provided by Shawnee Community College 

These are the Board of Trustees and administrators at Shawnee Community College at the inauguration of Dr. Peggy F. Bradford (on the right, front row) in October 2017.

"It's just like being home," Bradford said.

"I was thinking that I always wanted to come back and really be of service to Southern Illinois," she said. "In this region, the college had such an impact on the lives of people in the community, and I know that how I benefited — along with four of my siblings who graduated from the college — that it really was key in our life."

Shawnee now No. 1 subject

Within two months of being hired, she faced criticism from some critics of what they called her overspending on her inauguration.

Nothing of the kind, Bradford said. She noted that funds for the inauguration expenses, about $6,000, all came from private donations.

She was criticized for overspending on a lectern, a $13,000 state-of-the-art audio-visual aid that includes features that are ADA compliant and allows users, staff, teachers and the community to use devices for presentation, such as PowerPoint and other technology. She said the system was recommended by the college's Technology Department.

Plans to upgrade other technology from 2005 standards to 2018 standards will cost $1 million and new furniture and carpeting and other upgrades will cost another $2 million. To finance these upgrades, she worked with the board to prepare a $6 million bond levy that the community approved this past fall.

The technology, for instance, would provide health students with a simulated patient — which can cost about $170,000 — that mimics breathing, pregnancy and delivery and other human conditions.

Another of her goals is to develop more real-world work experiences and internships for students and more scholarships.

She said the Board of Trustees also had a goal of reopening a Shawnee site in Cairo, to give residents in that city and throughout Alexander County a location to take college-level courses and other classes. Bradford said Shawnee alum Ed Smith had donated money to buy and renovate property for that site; it is expected to open in fall 2018.

"To envision coming back and being a part of the college and being a part of the community, it was like a lifelong dream," Bradford said.