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Saline County pulls together during frigid temperatures

By Travis DeNeal
updated: 1/31/2019 5:03 PM

SALINE COUNTY -- Southern Illinois didn't get the subarctic weather of northern Illinois this week, but some thermometers saw negative numbers late Tuesday night and single digits Wednesday evening.

In short, it was still deadly cold for anyone without warm clothing or a place to stay. Fortunately, most communities had some sort of option to keep anyone from being left out in the cold.

In addition, social networking showed its usefulness in such situations. For instance, in Harrisburg, Mayor John McPeek posted that he learned some individuals in Harrisburg did not have a warm place to stay Tuesday night. In response, some Carrier Mills residents posted that the village hall would function as a warming center. In the meantime, Public Health and Safety Commissioner Beth Montfort made certain Harrisburg Police Department officers on duty would be able to transport those needing a ride to a warming center and Public Property Commissioner Mike Weirauch noted that the Pruett Building on East Church Street would be available as a warming center. Streets and Public Improvements Commissioner Natalie Miller also posted updates about treacherous road conditions and informed citizens that Street and Alley Department workers were busy trying to keep roads safe as snow continued to fall.

In the end, those needing a safe place to stay found accommodations, though no one needed to use the Pruett Building. As an added precaution, Weirauch announced Wednesday night the building again would be available to anyone needing to get out of the cold.

"The thinking was that we have this resource, and it certainly was life-threatening cold," Weirauch said. "And, while Wednesday night wasn't quite as cold, it still was almost as cold as it was Tuesday, so we made it available again."

Montfort said she was aware of warming centers in most of the county's communities, whether they were provided by a municipality or a church. She said working toward a common goal of community safety in life-threatening weather conditions reflects well on the area.

"We can accomplish great things when we all pull together, and this is a great example," she said.

A late Wednesday night round of snow ended up causing classes in all Saline County schools to be canceled.

In a recorded message, Harrisburg Superintendent Mike Gauch said that while originally his district planned to be in session Thursday, the late snow was causing some roads to become slick again, a point emphasized by the frequent sound of snowplows on roads late Wednesday night.