CARBONDALE — As winter precipitation moves in and temperatures fall as much as 30 degrees throughout the region Thursday night, law enforcement and weather officials are asking people to stay in if they can.
“Make sure you are aware of the danger you are putting yourself in,” said Joey Watson, a trooper with the Illinois State Police District 13 office, of people’s decision to venture out Thursday night and Friday.
Watson said if travel is unavoidable, then drivers should be prepared — make sure winter maintenance is kept up on vehicles, be sure the gas tank and wiper fluid are full, and pack extra blankets and food should someone need to wait on help after sliding off a roadway or being involved in an accident.
David Humphrey, lead forecaster at the National Weather Service’s Paducah office, said between Thursday night and Friday afternoon, the region could see between one and two inches of winter precipitation on top of some accumulation of ice and freezing rain. What started as a mild, rainy day in the region was expected to turn frigid Thursday night.
“By midnight you are going to see half of Southern Illinois below freezing,” Humphrey said.
That extra rain that falls in the afternoon could prove to be a particular risk for motorists Thursday. Keith Miley, operations engineer for the Illinois Department of Transportation, said as temperatures rapidly drop below freezing there could be a “flash freeze” of moisture on the roads, leading to dangerous conditions.
Miley said he was sending his night crews home in the afternoon to rest in preparation for a long night of salting and scraping roads, trying to keep up with accumulation.
Miley said those considering getting out, particularly during peak traffic times in the morning, need to remember that local road systems may not be in as good of shape as the main highways. He also added that while the temperatures are forecast to dip well below freezing, he believes the rock salt and other chemical ice-melt IDOT uses should remain effective.
Watson said there is the possibility that there could be a tow ban in effect Thursday night, which he said would be done to keep emergency persons safe during the potentially dangerous weather.
He said the police will be out with extra officers to make sure those on the roads are safe. He said should a tow ban be put in place, officers would transport stranded individuals to safe locations themselves.
Watson said if an accident does occur, he urges drivers to stay in the car with their seat belts on — more accidents can happen when people are out assessing damage, he said. He said if possible, move damaged cars off of the roads to wait for help.
Jacob Greer, assistant manager at Murdale Ace Hardware, said they have seen a run on winterizing products but said they still have a good supply.
“Normally we would almost be overstocked, but I guess with the current situation we have just what we need,” Greer said. He said anecdotally there seems to be a push for people to have supplies on hand just to be sure they have what they need when winter weather makes its return.
“Last night we had a gentleman purchase almost nine bags of ice melt,” he said. “I’ve seen a couple cart-fulls leave the store the last couple days.”
Greer also indicated that the store is well-stocked on items for winterizing vehicles. He said they even have a few sleds should someone want to capitalize on the winter weather.