Warren Munson Jr. owns a La Salle body shop and has been busier this winter than any in recent memory.
Cracked-up front ends and undercarriages have flown steadily into Munson’s shop and with a fresh mix of snow and cold now falling, he’s betting on many more. He and his crew haven’t been burning the midnight oil, but, “We’re at the edge of that point.”
“Very few cars go into the ditch without cracked bumpers or damage to the underside,” Munson said, explaining that cars are held together in spots with plastic clips that become brittle in cold weather. “It’s important for people to have their cars looked at after going into a ditch.”
And if this weather keeps up, Munson will have jobs to occupy him into spring.
Illinois Valley residents woke this morning to an intermittent storm that will have dropped upwards of 6 inches of snow by the time the system passes this afternoon.
Most schools were closed today (visit www.newstrib.com for a complete listing of closures) despite having depleted allocated snow days, thanks to road conditions that have overwhelmed plow drivers who could really use a break.
“They’re hanging in there, but they’re a tough bunch,” said Larry Kinzer, La Salle County highway engineer. “But, yeah, it’s been a long winter — and it’s not over yet.”
David Beachler, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Romeoville, said at 9:30 a.m. today that La Salle County had recorded variable snowfalls topping out at 6 inches, with more coming before the system passes this afternoon.
As has been the case in recent storms, the snowfall will be followed by cold, though not quite as bone-chilling as was experienced twice last month, as tomorrow’s high (4 degrees) will at least be in positive territory.
People should bundle up tonight, however. Temperatures will fall to an overnight low of minus-6 degrees — possibly minus-10 — with steady winds of 10-15 mph that will produce a wind chill of minus-25 tonight in La Salle-Peru. Temperatures will crawl slowly into the mid teens by week’s end.
“Right now, it doesn’t seem like we’ll see any substantial warm up,” Beachler said, seeing no relief in the 10-day forecast.
In other words, road conditions will continue to be hazardous.
A semi hauling cattle overturned at 1:47 a.m. today on Interstate 80 west of Spring Valley, springing “many cattle” from the enclosed trailer.
“Efforts were made to recapture all of the cattle,” state police reported, “however, due to the weather conditions at the time it is unknown if there are any that remain loose in that area.
“Caution is recommended in that area as a collision with a cow can be very severe.”
Though there were no road closures reported by press time, state police spokesman Craig Graham confirmed this morning most roads were snow-covered with plenty of residual cover lurking beneath the new snow to challenge motorists’ brakes, to say nothing of their nerves.
“Underneath the snow is ice,” Graham said. “We continue to have vehicles slide off the road and trucks jackknife, so travel is definitely not advised.”
State police strongly advise motorists who must travel to take with them a charged cell phone, car charger, food, water, warm clothing and blankets to ensure their protection while stranded and awaiting help.
Most frustrating to authorities is motorists are not exercising sufficient caution, perhaps because bad weather and treacherous roads have become so familiar that drivers have let their guards down.
“We’re getting cars in ditches now,” La Salle County deputy Jason Mohr reported early today. “People are driving way too fast and going into ditches.”
NewsTribune editor Craig Sterrett and reporter Jeff Dankert contributed to this story.