Breaking News Bar

'Not as bad as we thought' Williamson County sees its first snow of the season

  • As the earliest measurable snowfall since 1951 blanketed southern Illinois Wednesday evening, Johnston City Street Department workers were out in force clearing roads. Crews worked through the night to help ensure that the city's main thoroughfares would be as safe as possible for the morning commute.

    As the earliest measurable snowfall since 1951 blanketed southern Illinois Wednesday evening, Johnston City Street Department workers were out in force clearing roads. Crews worked through the night to help ensure that the city's main thoroughfares would be as safe as possible for the morning commute.
    Holly Kee photo

  • Mike Mayhew, a maintenance worker for Marion CUSD 2, works to clear the parking lot of the Williamson County Special Education building on South Court Street.

    Mike Mayhew, a maintenance worker for Marion CUSD 2, works to clear the parking lot of the Williamson County Special Education building on South Court Street.
    Holly Kee photo

  • The early season snowfall made a picturesque scene on the grounds of the Marion Veterans Administration Medical Center.

    The early season snowfall made a picturesque scene on the grounds of the Marion Veterans Administration Medical Center.
    Holly Kee photo

 
BY HOLLY KEE and JOHN HOMAN
hkee@localsouthernnews.com, jhoman@localsouthernnews.com
Posted on 11/16/2018, 1:15 PM

WILLIAMSON COUNTY -- Just after noon Thursday, David Bloodworth was exiting the Johnston City Dairy Queen, lunch in hand, heading back to his work truck.

Bloodworth, a 14-year employee of the Williamson County Highway Department, was on the tail end of a shift that began around 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday evening.

"We've all been working on it (snow removal)," said Bloodworth, speaking of his fellow employees.

Travel on Interstate 57 was crawling at an average of about 35 mph Wednesday night before IDOT crews were able to begin clearing that road.

The unexpected weather could have been much worse.

Local meteorologists told Southern Illinoisans to brace for possibly a bad winter storm Wednesday night and Thursday morning that could bring up to eight inches of snow. As it turns out, the region amassed about half that predicted total or much less.

Ashley Ravenscraft, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Paducah, said Williamson County may have been hit the hardest in Southern Illinois with anywhere from 3 to 4.5 inches of snow. There was a little ice mixed in with the snow accumulation.

"From what we can tell, it looks like the heaviest snow was right along Interstate 57 from Marion to just south of Mount Vernon," Ravenscraft said. "The bigger ice issues were further off to the south and east."

Ravenscraft said the heaviest snow fell in the overnight hours and was pretty much wrapping up by Thursday midmorning.

Asked why the inch count was lower than predicted, Ravenscraft said drier air than anticipated has something to do with that.

"Outside of Southern Illinois, the heaviest snowfall appears to be in the St. Louis area, where we have received a couple of reports of about six inches. This is the most snow we have seen for mid-November since 2014. Although not unheard of, it is pretty rare this early into the cold weather season."

Williamson County Highway Supervisor Greg Smothers said there were no major issues with snow removal. All 25 highway department employees got started with their heavy work on the main roads about 6 p.m. and followed up with secondary roads through the night to keep the county roads clear for motorists.

"Things have cleared up quite nicely today," Smothers said. "It turned out to be not as bad as we thought."

Smothers said the ground was warm underneath the snow, which allowed slush to form and made it easier for the county's 18 pieces of road equipment to push the snow to the side.

"We had a couple of reports of motorists sliding around when the snow first started falling, but there were very few problems and no major accidents as far as I know," Smothers said.

Marion Mayor Anthony Rinella was very pleased with the response from his public works departments. Rinella said the city made a decision a few years back to buy all dump trucks that could be retro fitted for snow plows.

"That decision has paid immensely in allowing us to put up to 16 trucks clearing snow at any one time," he said. "With that being said, in reality it's the individuals behind the wheel that really make it happen."

Rinella said that not having a rain before the snow helped tremendously in getting the roads cleared.

"Our guys got on it in the early afternoon," he said. "They had pre-treated the streets and started spreading salt."

In Johnston City, Alderman Al Peebels had similar praise for city employees.

"Basically, they were just doing their job," he said, "but they did a good job of it."

Peebels said the city's street department head, Bobby Lakotich, did a "great" job of directing about a half dozen employees from the city's water, sewer, and street departments who worked together to get the city's streets cleared.

Rinella said there was a similar effort in Marion. He also went to Facebook to give thanks to Small's Grocery. Employees there came in early to prepare a warm meal for city workers who spent the night clearing roads.