Winter weather threatens the area

Staff reports
Gusting winds from the north blow across farm fields and onto Illinois Route 17 just outside of Aledo. Traffic is still steady, but deteriorating conditions could close roads once the predicted snow starts to really begin falling.

With a winter storm approaching the area, the Mercer County Emergency Management Agency has plans in place to open warm centers, should the need arise. Local emergency planning officials have activated the county's "shelter response plan" in the event of a power outage, according to Jennifer Hamerlinck of the Mercer County Emergency Management Agency.

"Currently we're just planning for a short outage," she said. "If power outages become more long term, we will make more plans."

The shelter response plan was put together by the MCEMA and the Mercer County Health Department after the 2007 extended power outage forced the county to respond to area residents in need of a warm place to stay.

In late February 2007 a winter storm came through the county cutting off power to residences and businesses -- some for nearly a week. At the height of the storm 200,000 people were without power.

"We are ready to open warming centers," said Hamerlinck.

"We have identified lead people, should the event extend longer than just short term," said Hamerlinck.

Warming centers are located at the following places: Aledo Fire Department, Viola Fire Department, New Boston Fire Department, Seaton Fire Department, Sherrard Fire Department, Eliza Community Center, Preemption Township Hall, Matherville Village Hall and Keithsburg City Hall.

If residents do show up at a warming center, they are asked to only bring essential items, such as medications and personal hygiene items. They can also bring along a pillow and blanket.

Weather predictions

According to the National Weather Service, Davenport, Quad Cities, a blizzard warning remains in effect from 3 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 1, through  noon CST Wednesday, Feb. 2.

Area school districts canceled classes Tuesday, including the Sherrard, Rockridge, Mercer County, Alwood and United school districts.

The weather service predicts that snow will develop Tuesday afternoon and become heavy at times  with strong winds producing widespread blowing and drifting Tuesday night into early Wednesday morning. Measurable snowfall will end over most of the area by noon Wednesday.

Roads are expected to become snow packed and slick Tuesday afternoon with considerable drifting, making roads difficult to keep clear overnight into Wednesday.

Travel on area roads will likely become difficult, if not impossible, especially Tuesday night.

A strong circulation around this storm along with arctic high pressure over the northern plains will result in strong north winds of 25 to 35 mph with gusts over 45 mph possible. the strong winds and heavy snow will result in widespread blizzard conditions... especially from about 7 p.m. Tuesday to 5 a.m. Wednesday.

Area snow began falling Monday afternoon, with little area accumulation, but Heather Stanley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Lincoln, Neb., said there is an upside - the freezing rain and ice is predicted to skirt the area. "You're not going to see the precipitation mix they're seeing more towards the south," she said.

She said the blowing and drifting snow could become significant.

Jim Angel, state climatologist, talked about one of the more unusual aspects of this particular storm - "about how it was forecasted so far ahead."

With accumulations forecasted for up to 18 inches, Angel said it could become the 100-year storm.