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Kane County struggles through another arctic blast

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, March 28, 2014 2:48 p.m. CDT
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(Sandy Bressner – sbressner@shawmedia.com)
Linda Ludwig braces against the cold wind Monday while loading groceries into her car outside Costco in St. Charles.

Dangerously cold temperatures Monday shuttered schools across the area, and blowing and drifting snow caused whiteout conditions in western Kane County.

Blowing and drifting snow Sunday night into Monday caused dangerous driving conditions.

Winds on Sunday night were clocked as high as 54 mph at Aurora Airport in Sugar Grove, and gusts were around 30 mph Monday.

Kane County remains stuck in a deep freeze. The arctic temperatures will hang around again today, with a wind chill warning in effect until 9 a.m. Wednesday.

The conditions made for a difficult day for the Kane County Sheriff’s Department.

“We were just trying to get cars that were abandoned out of the way so plows could get through,” said Lt. Pat Gengler, the Kane County Sheriff’s Department spokesman. “With the blowing and drifting snow, the plows are having a hard time keeping up. We have some areas with snow drifts comparable to those seen in the blizzard in 2011.”

Low temperatures this morning are expected to be around 27 below zero, with wind chills of between 30 below zero to 40 below zero, said Amy Seeley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Romeoville office.

The high temperature today is expected to be zero. Because of the prolonged deep freeze, classes for all public schools in the area will again be canceled today, and many private schools also have canceled their classes.

Schools previously were canceled during an arctic blast earlier this month. All Kane County forest preserves and facilities will remain closed today because of the extreme weather conditions.

District nature programs have been canceled. Gates will remain locked at all preserves to keep both the public and staff safe in the sub-zero temperatures and double-digit wind chills.

The forest preserves are expected to reopen at sunrise Wednesday, as temperatures are forecast to rise to the high teens. This winter has been unusually cold – from Dec. 1 through Jan. 25, the average temperature has been 20.3 degrees, making it the 13th-coldest winter dating to 1872, according to the National Weather Service.

Those who must spend any time outdoors are being urged to wear layers of warm, dry clothing and to cover exposed skin as protection from frostbite. Delnor Hospital’s emergency department Monday didn’t treat any patients for weather-related issues such as frostbite, hospital spokesman Chris King said.

Despite the frigid temperatures, there hasn’t been much of an increase in people using the services of the Lazarus House homeless shelter in downtown St. Charles, which is a designated warming shelter.

“Over the past week or two, the number of people here have increased a slight amount,” Lazarus House Executive Director Liz Eakins said. “But nobody has taken advantage of Lazarus House as a warming shelter. This tells us there are enough smart people that are not wandering the streets in this weather.”

The weather has not changed the homeless shelter’s operations, she said.

“We are open 24/7, regardless of the weather,” Eakins said. “For us, it’s business as usual.”

Public works departments are trying to keep the roads safe for motorists, even as the arctic temperatures present a new challenge.

“Our salt is pre-treated prior to application to help it be more effective in the colder temperatures,” St. Charles Public Services Manager Chris Adesso said. “We also have had staff working continually the past few days addressing blowing and drifting snow.”

Public works departments are going through more salt this winter compared to previous winters. “Since October, we have used 2,500 tons of salt,” said Kevin Stahr, Geneva’s communications coordinator. “On the average, we use about 2,000 tons of salt.”

But this hasn’t been an average winter. Through Jan. 26, the area has seen about 33 inches of snow, making it the third-snowiest January on record and the fourth-snowiest month ever, according to the National Weather Service.

The city of Geneva has 1,000 tons of salt left and can always order more, Stahr said.

“We’re still going to provide plowing services and keep our residents safe,” he said. “That is of upmost importance.”

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