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The atmospheric phenomenon of parhelion, also known as “sun dogs” lights up the sky Monday morning from a vantage point near La Salle’s Rotary Park. Parhelion occurs when light from the sun refracts off ice crystals in the sky.
NewsTribune photo/Chris Yucus
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By Rachel Stella and Tom Collins NewsTribune Reporters
Anna Lijewski’s phone rang often Monday. People tiring of winter called her at La Salle County Travel Agency to ask about getaways — and so did travelers stranded in out-of-state airports.
“We have people stuck in Florida,” said Lijewski, co-owner.
Stuck in Florida?
While the poor souls languish in Orlando (Monday’s high: 72 degrees) and Miami (82 degrees), the rest of the Illinois Valley was counting down the hours until noon today when a dangerous wind chill advisory lifts and the mercury crawls to a welcome 8 degrees.
The National Weather Service confirmed today the “polar vortex” is lifting, replaced by a warmer air front that will progressively lift the mercury to more tolerable levels over the next few days.
“Friday will be above the freezing mark with a high in the mid 30s and it looks as if the (warm) air mass will stay through early next week,” said Ben Deubelbeiss, a meteorologist with the NWS in Romeoville.
It didn’t seem as if things could be any colder. Thermometers cratered at 17 below on Monday, leaving Illinois Valley residents to hole up at home watching TV, doing laundry or taking down the Christmas decorations — and those were the lucky ones.
Not so lucky was Tom “Mr. Plow” Riordan of Peru, who couldn’t catch many winks in between clearing driveways and parking lots.
“The phone’s ringing non-stop,” Riordan said. “I did my standard 28 hours, then I got four hours of sleep, then I went out again for nine hours.”
Rick Rynkewicz plans on being busy, as well. He owns Pro Body Shop in Peru and took note of the flatbeds bearing damaged cars that had spun out on icy roads.
“It definitely is going to add a lot of work to our businesses and create a backlog,” Rynkewicz said, anticipating more drive-up jobs once the roads are clear.
Jim Schrader, owner of Jim’s Repair in Utica, said he’s been fixing snow blowers “almost nonstop” since the end of November and fielded additional repair calls Monday. However, Schrader pointedly told all callers the work would have to wait — he wouldn’t trudge out in subzero temperatures to fix anything.
“Most people have told me tomorrow is fine,” Schrader said Monday. “They wouldn’t go outside with them today, anyway.”
Nevertheless, a few daring souls showed up at his door with snow blowers they wanted fixed on the spot — and the bitter cold be damned.
“Those are some hardy rascals,” he said admiringly.
Not everyone in the Illinois Valley was as impervious to the cold, however.
Public Action to Deliver Shelter reported 10 new clients in Ottawa and stood at 75 percent capacity in Peru, though executive director Carol Alcorn said PADS was well-prepared for the influx in terms of food, supplies and volunteer labor.
“We’re pretty well set,” Alcorn said. “We’re hoping the weather breaks tomorrow.”
For Illinois Valley Animal Rescue, the thaw could have arrived much sooner. The pipes froze at IVAR’s shelter and left staff without water for the 100 cats and 30 dogs. Chris Ellberg, executive director, issued an appeal not only for fresh tap water but also for people willing to put their washers and dryers to good use.
“We also need someone to help us with the laundry so we have nice clean bedding for the night,” she said.
Other area residents stayed warm by hook or by crook. Illinois Valley Community Hospital in Peru reported a handful of people who showed at the warming center established in the cafeteria — one man stayed there all weekend — and the people who fix furnaces have been flooded with calls.
“It’s been a busy weekend,” confirmed Don Finley, vice president of store operations at John’s Service and Sales in Oglesby. “We have a full fleet of over 25 guys out doing service calls and taking care of people with no heat, and we were steady Sunday, too.”
Of course, there’s more than one way to fight the cold. Patti Hall, owner of Rudy’s Liquors in La Salle, said the weekend forecast set off a not-unexpected run on beer, wine and the hard stuff. One especially popular item was upper-end red wines such as pinot noir.
“People upgrade a little because they plan on making nice dinners or hunkering down in front of a movie,” Hall explained, “I think because they have the time to sit down and savor it. They make the most of the storm.”
Most residents will return to work and school today, as the forecast calls not only for less frigid temperatures but also some much-needed sun to help plow drivers in clearing roads caked in ice and hard-packed snow.
The Bureau County Highway Department had to temporarily pull its snow-clearing trucks off the road Monday from around 6:30 to 8:40 a.m. because of equipment breakdowns, county engineer John Gross said.
“We just had to bring some trucks back into the shop for repairs,” Gross said.
La Salle County engineer Larry Kinzer said his biggest problem was wind. Any gusts above 20 mph would redistribute snow across rural roads despite his crew’s best efforts.
“We’ve been out all morning, and most all of the roads we’ve got at least a pass,” Kinzer reported at midday Monday. “The wind is still up and there are visibility problems in open areas and it’s drifting, but we’re pushing them back. We’re staying up with that, at least, but we’ll be out all day.”
Posted: Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Article comment by:
Great pic of the snowbow!! Wonder what the small round object just above the horizon, bottom left of the octahedron (sun) is? And the large golden orb in the upper right? Look closely and you will see them...
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