Northern Illinois encountering dangerous cold, impassable roads

Lee County officials: If you have to travel today, prepare to be in your vehicle for several hours

An Illinois Department of Transportation grader uses a side plow to move snow back from the edge of the eastbound lane of state Route 64 on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024. Crews worked through Friday evening and all day Saturday in anticipation of strong winds, more snow, and sub-zero temperatures forecasted into Sunday.

DIXONLee County emergency management officials say if you have to travel today, make sure you are prepared to be in your vehicle for several hours.

That directive, which the office posted on its Facebook page, comes as snowplows are having difficulty removing snow from roads because of drifts and stranded and abandoned vehicles. First responders will be unable to get to vehicles because of impassable roads, emergency management officials warn.

“They are using the same type of vehicle to rescue you as you are using to travel,” the post reads.

As plows get the roads open, tow companies will be contacted to have vehicles removed. The sheriff’s office said drivers who have abandoned their vehicles and have not yet reported it, should call the department’s nonemergency number at 815-284-6631.

For those who must drive today, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office advises drivers to use state highways to get to destinations. The sheriff’s office is asking drivers who encounter drifts to not try to drive through them and to find an alternate route.

Dangerously cold wind chills are another reason to stay inside. According to the National Weather Service, the wind chill temperature in Sterling was minus 42 degrees at 6:15 a.m. Sunday. Joliet’s was minus 30, Rochelle was at minus 36 and Peru recorded a wind chill of minus 39.

Northern Illinois will continue to face dangerous wind chills over the next few days. Lee, Ogle, Winnebago, Boone, DeKalb, Kane, La Salle, Kendall, Grundy and Will counties are under a wind chill warning until noon Monday, and then will be under a wind chill advisory from noon Monday to 9 a.m. Wednesday. Dangerously cold wind chills, which could be anywhere from minus 30 to minus 35 degrees, could cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 15 to 30 minutes.

The dangerously cold temperatures follow a strong double-barreled, low pressure system that brought two waves of accumulating snow to the region, beginning during the early hours of Friday, Jan. 12, through late morning, then again that evening through early Saturday, Jan. 13, according to the NWS.

The highest snowfall totals of over a foot of snow were observed toward the Illinois-Wisconsin state line in portions of Boone, McHenry and Lake counties. Many areas along/north of Interstate 80 received more than 6 inches of snow. A notable gradient in amounts occurred near Lake Michigan because of relatively mild lake temperatures still in the upper 30s to about 40, according to the NWS.

Charlene Bielema

Charlene Bielema

Charlene Bielema is the editor of Sauk Valley Media.