While Illinois experiences the worst winter storm in over a decade, response teams continue to deal with extreme conditions.
Heavy snow, ice, and blizzard conditions are impacting a large portion of the state through Thursday. The hardest hit area is expected to be Central Illinois with snow projections approaching 18 inches by the time the storm winds down.
“It’s possible that we get 6 inches of snow, it’s possible we get 16 inches of snow and we are planning for the worst and hoping for the best, but we will be ready when it occurs,” said Scott Swinford, deputy director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a disaster declaration Tuesday and said 130 members of the Illinois National Guard have been activated to help deal with the heavy snow, ice, and blizzard conditions over the next couple days. The soldiers and airmen will be assigned as winter weather platoons with each unit consisting of 18 soldiers. They will be equipped with six High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles and one Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck Wrecker.
Maria Castaneda, spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Transportation, said this is an event that they make sure they are ready for if and when it happens.
“This is something that we are preparing for year round,” said Castaneda. “That includes making sure we have enough salt, obviously making sure we have our trucks ready to go and our manpower.”
Statewide, IDOT has available more than 1,800 trucks and equipment to plow, treat roads and respond to weather emergencies.
Brendan Kelly, director of Illinois State Police, said response teams will pivot depending on the nature of the storm.
“From the joint operations center, the Illinois State Police and other state agencies will constantly monitor the progress and impacts of the storm and will have the ability to easily shift our teams north or south depending on the storm’s track and impact,” said Kelly.
The storm brings back memories of the 2011 Groundhog Day blizzard that affected large swaths of the country. The Chicago area saw over 21 inches of snow and blizzard conditions, with winds of over 60 mph.