Winter blast brings dangerous cold


STEAM ON THE WATER — The cold weather interacting with the warm water at Braidwood Lake produced an eerie steam as the cold weather rolled in.
By: 
Marney Simon
Staff writer

The area was braced for an uncomfortable blast of frigid air this week, set to level out as the weekend approaches. But once the cold moves out, the rain is set to settle in, which could cause areas of flooding and standing water.

The arctic blast first reared its ugly head on Tuesday morning, with the National Weather Service (NWS) reporting a local temperature of zero with a wind chill of 15 below. Those temperatures were set to be the warmest the area would see until Friday afternoon, with a wind chill warning in effect Tuesday night through Thursday afternoon.

The weather predicted for today (Wednesday) shows arctic air fully covering northern Illinois, with temperatures remaining in negative double-digits, and windchills at 40 to 55 degrees below zero.

According to the NWS, the impressive arctic airmass – once again a polar vortex – will create the record-breaking temperatures, followed by a moderating trend. The deep upper level vortex situated over southern Quebec will start to lift out on Thursday, kicking off a pattern change in time for the weekend.

In addition to the freezing temperatures, the NWS issued a flood warning for the Kankakee River in Wilmington, affecting Will, Grundy, and Kankakee counties.

Ice jams along the river can result in rapid fluctuations of water levels, often with little or no warning. On Tuesday morning, the Will County Emergency Management Agency reported a significant ice jam along the Kankakee River near Interstate 55, downstream of Wilmington.

The NWS also reported 13 straight days of snowfall throughout the region, the first time that at least a trace of snow fell each day for nearly two weeks since 1979.

The winter blast created a week of havoc around the city of Braidwood. On Monday, the Reed-Custer School District cancelled all classes due to snow that created hazardous travel conditions. The district also made the call early

Tuesday to cancel all classes on Wednesday, in preparation of below zero air temperatures and wind chills predicted to go as low as 50 degrees below zero.

Braidwood City Hall, which operates along with the Braidwood Fire Department as one of the city’s official climate centers in extreme weather, will be open 24 hours a day until the cold snap has moved on.

“We’re going to be 24/7 for the warming shelter,” Mayor Jim Vehrs said. “If somebody’s furnace goes out, we don’t want anyone to freeze. If you do lose your heat, make sure you turn on your water, because your lines will freeze in this.”

Vehrs also said that the city’s PACE bus service was cancelled through the duration of the cold snap, which is set to move out of the area by Friday.

But, as the temperatures start to rise over the weekend, the area could be faced with some unwelcome rain. While gusty winds and snowfall left roads in rough shape earlier in the week, Vehrs said the city’s public works crews were able to get roadways clear and safe for travel before the deep freeze set in.

“The roads are in great shape, but hopefully we won’t get that freezing rain,” Vehrs said. “Hopefully all the water mains will be okay. It will be interesting.”

During this and any period of extreme cold, the NWS warns that folks should avoid going outdoors if possible.

If you must be outside, cover exposed skin and dress in layers, including three layers on your torso and two on your legs. Waterproof boots, a hat, gloves or mittens, and a face mask are also recommended.

Pets should also be kept indoors.

Anyone in need of assistance during the cold snap can contact Braidwood City Hall at 458-2333, or the Braidwood Police Department non-emergency line at 458-2341. Anyone facing a severe emergency during the cold weather should dial 911.