Environment & Weather
Governor Quinn Thanks Emergency Crews and Personnel for Winter Storm Response PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Brooke Anderson   
Monday, 13 January 2014 10:15

Heroic Rescue Stories Emerge; Thousands Worked Around the Clock to Keep Illinois Residents Safe During Winter Blast

CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today thanked the emergency workers who provided around-the-clock assistance during this week’s historic winter storm and freeze. Since last week, thousands of state employees worked tirelessly to clear Illinois roads, rescue stranded motorists and keep people safe. During the storm, many heroic rescue stories surfaced and the Governor thanked workers who made the state’s effective storm response possible.

"When disaster strikes the heartland, Illinois’ first responders are on the job to keep people safe,” Governor Quinn said. “Illinois is a community of shared values. I want to recognize and thank our response and emergency personnel who have been working day and night to assist those in need during this remarkable storm.”

“People across our state stepped up to help, from those driving the salt and plow trucks at all hours of the night to keep interstates safe to our neighbors who checked on their neighbors during extremely low temperatures,” the Governor said. “This was an amazing effort during an amazing winter storm.”

The Governor monitored weather conditions hour-by-hour and directed the state’s agencies to take a number of steps in response to the heavy snow and severe cold gripping Illinois. On Sunday, the Governor activated the State Emergency Operations Center in Springfield to coordinate the state’s response to the storm. Representatives from critical safety agencies staffed the center 24 hours a day throughout the duration of the storm and dangerously low temperatures. As a dangerous combination of black ice and snow drifts developed overnight, Governor Quinn issued a statewide disaster declaration, which activated the state's emergency operations plan and allowed him to activate the Illinois National Guard to assist state and local emergency responders. As conditions continued to worsen, the Governor implemented the State’s Continuity of Operations/Continuity of Government Plans to ensure continued delivery of critical state response services during the severe winter weather conditions while protecting the state’s workforce.

Several state agencies were at the forefront of the state’s storm response, and individual stories of heroism emerged during the days they protected and served the citizens of Illinois.

Department of Transportation

The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) had 1,755 trucks assigned to snow duty across the state, and nearly 3,700 full-time and part-time employees available to help ensure roads were clear and passable. Statewide, IDOT and Tollway crews dispersed more than of 70,000 tons of salt on Illinois roadways during the weather emergency.

IDOT cleared the way for an ambulance that was transporting a woman experiencing a difficult child birth in Stark County. The Stark County Sheriff's Department contacted IDOT and informed them that there was a woman having a difficult labor in Wyoming, Ill., and the ambulance needed a snowplow to try to escort them to the hospital in Kewanee. The IDOT snow shift foreman from the Stark County maintenance yard in Wyoming informed responders that the best route for the ambulance would be to take Route 17 to Route 78, arriving at the hospital in Kewanee. IDOT Districts 2 and 4 then worked to get the needed snow plows to the area so the ambulance would have a clear path. The baby boy, Subal Patel – 6 pounds 7 ounces and 22 inches long – arrived shortly after the ambulance reached the hospital in Kewanee. Mother Parul Patel, proud father Chad Patel, and little Subal are all doing fine.

Tollway

The Illinois Tollway deployed its full fleet of 182 snowplows and called in more than 400 employees to keep its 286 miles of roadway clear. The Tollway deployed 11 H.E.L.P.  trucks and 22 Zero Weather Road Patrols operating around the clock during the extreme cold that followed the snowfall. Tollway employees and Illinois State Police District 15 provided emergency assistance to 1,099 customers across the system. The *999 Cellular Express Line System handled 1,869 calls from customers during the snowstorm and extreme freeze.

In addition to salt, the Tollway used 1,293 tons of roadway abrasives and sprayed 1,900 gallons of liquid Calcium Chloride. There were 275 accidents reported on the Tollway system during the severe weather. At the storm’s peak, the Central Dispatch Center was handling more than 75 incidents simultaneously involving both Illinois State Police District 15 and Tollway maintenance crews.

Ed Robinson, a Tollway H.E.L.P. truck operator on the Tri-State Tollway in Lake County stopped Tuesday night to help two customers whose car broke down as they were driving to O’Hare Airport, leaving them without heat in the extreme cold.  After arranging to have the vehicle towed to an auto repair shop, they learned the car could not be repaired that night because the shop was busy and getting ready to close, leaving them stranded. After learning about the new trouble, Robinson met the couple on his own time after his shift ended and installed an alternator in the car so they could complete their trip to O’Hare safely. Afterward, he told his supervisor that he wanted to help the couple and ensure their safety, and hoped that someone would do the same for his kids.

State Police

Statewide, from Sunday to Tuesday, the Illinois State Police responded to more than 6,000 thousands of incidents including 3,932 motorist assists, 792 crashes and 534 traffic stops. All available personnel, including SWAT team members and Crime Scene Services, worked to make the roads safer and respond to emergencies.

The ISP organized a multi-agency “Rescue Task Force” in Livingston County late Sunday night when several motorists became stranded on Route 116 and road conditions prevented emergency responders from reaching them. At about 10 p.m. Cecilia Zroegaert and Steven Zroegaert became stuck in a ditch three miles west of Saunemin. Several other motorists were also stuck on Route 116 due to heavy snow and white-out conditions. State Police District 6 was notified of the stranded motorists and quickly deployed the "Rescue Task Force" that included two Department of Transportation snow plows, two tow trucks, and a State Police SWAT operator driving a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Starting from Pontiac and led by a District 6 Sergeant in a patrol car, the task force had to clear more than nine miles of Route 116 in order to reach the stranded motorists.

Temperatures continued to drop and progress was slow as the rescue team encountered large snow drifts rapidly accumulating from the high winds. At about 11 p.m. the rescue team reached a section of highway covered by snow drifts more than six feet tall that prevented the plows and emergency equipment from moving any further. The Saunemin Fire Department’s attempt to rescue the motorists from the opposite direction on Route 116 was blocked by abandoned vehicles left on the highway.

State Police Sergeant Tim Sweeney and Trooper David Diller worked diligently to find a local resource to assist. About 11:30 p.m. they located a citizen from Saunemin, Matthew Harms, who set out to rescue the motorists using his snowmobile. By this time the Zroegaerts’ vehicle was low on fuel and no longer able to provide heat; the rescuers told the Zroegaerts by cell phone to honk their horn every few minutes to help Harms locate them. Harms finally located the Zroegaerts shortly after midnight and drove them to safety. Harms then checked every stranded vehicle in the area to ensure no others needed assistance.

The rescue task force was finally able to clear Route 116 to Saunemin at about 1:30 a.m. Monday.

Department of Natural Resources

A total of 58 Conservation Police Officers from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) equipped with four-wheel-drive vehicles and eight snowmobiles, performed 500 public assists, including motorist assistance, welfare checks and relays during the winter weather emergency.

Conservation Police Officer Robert Wellum carried a five gallon can of gasoline on foot nearly one mile in 20 degrees below zero wind chills to a family in Clark County whose emergency generator had run out of fuel. On Monday, Jan. 6 at 11 a.m. a 911 call was made by a family of four, including two small children, stranded in their home in rural Clark County. They had run out of gas to power their generator and the home was without power and heat. Officer Wellum went to nearby gas station to fill up a five gallon gas can using his own money, then drove as close as possible to the home, but snow drifts had made roads impassable. Wellum got out of his truck and walked one mile to the family’s home while carrying the can of gas, and he arrived just in time – the temperature in the home was at 52 degrees and rapidly dropping.

Conservation Police Officer Trent Reeves rescued seven people and two pets that were trapped by snow drifts along Route 47 north of Mahomet. Emergency vehicles could not reach the people, so Officer Reeves traveled by snowmobile and on foot to rescue the stranded individuals and deliver them to nearby emergency vehicles. All of those rescued, including the pets, are fine. Officer Jim Mayes assisted with the rescue, and himself used his truck to rescue six individuals who were stranded on Interstate 74 in east central Illinois.

National Guard

More than 30 Illinois Army National Guard mechanics were activated to support the winter storm efforts by assisting IDOT with truck repair and maintenance of winter storm equipment degraded by the events over the last week. On Jan. 6 Governor Quinn activated two soldiers and a heavy-duty military wrecker to help  IDOT and State Police pull three civilian vehicles and five semi tractor-trailers out of the snow and line of traffic.

Personnel from the Illinois National Guard field maintenance shop in Mattoon coordinated with Illinois State Police troopers and Illinois Department of Transportation snow plow crews to assist motorists in approximately 375 vehicles backed up on I-70 and I-57 north of Effingham Sunday evening. The backup was the result of several vehicles and semi-trucks that were stuck in snow drifts, making it impossible for snow plows to clear the route for the cars to proceed. Illinois National Guard personnel used a wrecker to pull the stranded vehicles and trucks from the road, which allowed IDOT crews to clear the road and rescue hundreds of passengers.

National Guard soldiers were also on hand to ensure that IDOT vehicles were fully operational and capable of handling the intense cold and snow which could affect all vehicles on Illinois roads.

"The snow storm and extreme temperatures has an effect on vehicles and personnel, and the man-power we have is not able to keep up with repairs," James McKay, an engineer technician with IDOT Emergency Traffic Patrol (ETP) in Chicago, said of conditions before the National Guard arrived. "With the over whelming amount or repairs our maintenance division has right now, help is definitely needed. You are coming to our rescue, you're putting our fleet back into operating condition, and we are very thankful."

"The Soldiers are great. They showed up early, had their A-game on, and were ready to work," Joseph Lonero, an equipment expeditor with IDOT ETP in Chicago, said. "We have over 100 vehicles district wide that need repairs, we will keep them busy and we are thankful for the help."

Department of Human Services

During the storm, the Governor opened and encouraged residents to find shelter in the state’s more than 100 warming centers, including Illinois Department of Human Services offices throughout the state, and the seven Illinois Tollway Oases. Hundreds of individuals took advantage of the warming centers over the course of the storm.

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Governor Quinn Provides Statewide Update on Response to Historic Winter Storm PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Grant Klinzman   
Tuesday, 07 January 2014 08:32

Critical State Services Continue; Illinois National Guard Activated to Join Other State Emergency Responders

CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today was joined by key state emergency officials to provide a comprehensive update on the state's response to the historic winter storm and freeze. As all critical and emergency state services continue, the Governor has also activated the Illinois National Guard to help emergency crews across the state provide assistance during the bitter cold and dangerous weather conditions, which have included a hazardous combination of black ice and snow drifts.

Since last week, the state has deployed nearly 3,700 employees and 1,755 trucks from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) statewide to address the winter weather on state routes, and 200 staff and 182 snow plows from the Illinois Tollway. The Tollway has doubled the number of Zero Weather Road Patrols to assist customers stranded in their cars during the severe weather. Additionally, Conservation Police Officers in snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles and four-wheel-drive trucks are assisting stranded motorists throughout the state and helping find missing persons.

"The state of Illinois has mobilized all resources to keep residents safe while continuing to provide critical state services,” Governor Quinn said. “We are facing a dangerous combination of low temperatures, black ice and snow drifts.”

“I want to recognize the heroism of our state’s first-responders and emergency personnel who have been working throughout the night and day to rescue motorists and provide critical services and assistance in some of the most difficult conditions imaginable,” the Governor said.

Update

The Governor has been monitoring weather conditions hour by hour and has directed the state’s agencies to take a number of steps in response to the heavy snow and severe cold gripping Illinois.

Yesterday, the Governor activated the State Emergency Operations Center in Springfield to coordinate the state’s response to the storm. Representatives from critical safety agencies are staffing the center 24 hours a day throughout the duration of the storm and dangerously low temperatures. As a dangerous combination of black ice and snow drifts developed overnight, Governor Quinn issued a statewide disaster declaration, which activates the state's emergency operations plan and allowed him to activate the Illinois National Guard to help state and local emergency responders with an increasing volume of calls for assistance. As conditions continued to worsen, the Governor implemented the State’s Continuity of Operations/Continuity of Government Plans earlier this morning to ensure continued delivery of critical state response services during the severe winter weather conditions while protecting the state’s workforce.

The Governor has also opened the state’s more than 100 warming centers, including Illinois Department of Human Services offices throughout the state, which are open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., or the Illinois Tollway Oases, which are open 24 hours a day. To find a warming center, call (800) 843-6154 or visit keepwarm.illinois.gov.

Heroic Emergency Responders

Stories of heroism by rescuers continue to emerge as emergency responders work around the clock to assist those impacted by the extreme weather.

Personnel from the Illinois National Guard field maintenance shop in Mattoon coordinated with Illinois State Police troopers and Illinois Department of Transportation snow plow crews to assist motorists in approximately 375 vehicles backed up on I-70 and I-57 north of Effingham Sunday evening. The backup was the result of several vehicles and semi-trucks that were stuck in snow drifts, making it impossible for snow plows to clear the route for the cars to proceed. Illinois National Guard personnel used a wrecker to pull the stranded vehicles and trucks from the road, which allowed IDOT crews to clear the road and rescue hundreds of passengers.

"The men and women of the Illinois National Guard are again demonstrating their commitment to the safety and security of Illinois citizens," Brig. Gen. Daniel M. Krumrei, the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard, said. "We train extensively throughout the year to be ready and on the scene to help our neighbors at a moment's notice.  Within two hours of activation, our Soldiers navigated dangerous road conditions in sub-zero temperatures to rescue stranded motorists."

Conservation Police Officer Trent Reeves rescued seven people and two pets that were trapped by snow drifts along Route 47 north of Mahomet. Emergency vehicles could not reach the people, so Officer Reeves traveled by snowmobile and on foot to rescue the stranded individuals and deliver them to nearby emergency vehicles. All of those rescued, including the pets, are fine. Officer Jim Mayes assisted with the rescue, and himself used his truck to rescue six individuals who were stranded on Interstate 74 in east central Illinois.

State officials are advising people to stay safe and take the proper precautions during this weather emergency.

“With the freezing temperatures, black ice is a major concern,” Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann L. Schneider said. “Black ice forms on roads that appear clear and the unseen ice can be treacherous. We encourage motorists, if they must travel, to take it slow when approaching intersections, off-ramps, bridges and shady areas – all are prone to black ice. Motorists should use extreme caution, buckle up, avoid distractions and check www.gettingaroundillinois.com for the latest winter road conditions and road closures.”

“If you must drive in these dangerous conditions, be sure to stock your vehicle with emergency supplies, such as bottled water, snack foods, a flashlight, blankets, extra warm clothing, gloves, boots and other winter weather items,” Illinois Emergency Management Agency Director Jonathon Monken said. “You need to be ready to stay safe and warm if you are stranded along the road for several hours, which is a very real possibility during the current weather conditions.”

“Facing such extreme conditions, the Tollway is urging its customers to avoid driving if at all possible,” Illinois Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur said. “For those who must travel, we are asking that you take proper precautions for dangerously cold temperatures and allow extra time for your trips.”

The Illinois Department of Public Health and the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal caution residents about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is produced whenever fuel such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood or charcoal is burned.  If appliances are not working properly or are used incorrectly, dangerous levels of carbon monoxide can result. Symptoms may resemble winter flu or food poisoning, particularly in children, and include headaches, dizziness, nausea, and lethargy. Higher levels of exposure can cause fainting, marked confusion and collapse. If exposure continues, death can result. If your carbon monoxide detector alarm sounds, call 911 and leave the area immediately. Affected individuals should be led to fresh air.

To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, do not use a gas oven to heat your home, even for a short time; do not burn anything in a stove or fireplace that is not vented; do not use gasoline-powered engines in your house, garage or other enclosed spaces; and do not use a charcoal grill, camping stove or Sterno-type fuel for cooking indoors, even in a fireplace.

The Department of Public Health also reminds people to reduce the chance of frostbite or hypothermia by staying dry and wearing several layers of lightweight clothing; covering your head; wearing mittens rather than fingered gloves; wearing warm leg coverings and heavy socks or two pairs of lightweight socks; and covering your ears and lower face.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture encourages pet-owners to keep their pets indoors or ensure they have a warm shelter area with unfrozen food and water. To protect people’s pets, they also encourage everyone to use pet-friendly salt when clearing sidewalks and driveways.

More information about Winter Storm Preparedness is available from Ready.Illinois.gov.

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Salvation Army Warming Centers available in Iowa and Illinois PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Holly Nomura   
Monday, 06 January 2014 15:42

Quad Cities, USA: Warming Centers will be open to any community resident needing a place to keep warm while the Quad Cities experiences these extremely low temperatures. The two warming center locations include:

In Illinois: Heritage Temple Corps, 2200 – 5th Avenue, Moline, IL 9am–4pm

In Iowa: Family Service Center, 301 W. 6th Street, Davenport, IA 10am–7pm

Coffee and snacks will be made available.

 
Hypothermia and older adults: Tips for staying safe in cold weather PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Kim Calvin   
Monday, 06 January 2014 15:31

Frigid weather can pose special risks to older adults. The National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health, has some advice for helping older people avoid hypothermia—when the body gets too cold—during cold weather.

Hypothermia is generally defined as having a core body temperature of 95 degrees Fahrenheit or lower and can occur when the outside environment gets too cold or the body's heat production decreases. Older adults are especially vulnerable to hypothermia because their bodies’ response to cold can be diminished by underlying medical conditions such as diabetes and by use of some medicines, including over-the-counter cold remedies. Hypothermia can develop in older adults after relatively short exposure to cold weather or even a small drop in temperature.

Someone may suffer from hypothermia if he or she has been exposed to cool temperatures and shows one or more of the following signs: slowed or slurred speech; sleepiness or confusion; shivering or stiffness in the arms and legs; poor control over body movements; slow reactions, or a weak pulse.

Here are a few tips to help older people avoid hypothermia:

  • Make sure your home is warm enough. Set the thermostat to at least 68 to 70 degrees. Even mildly cool homes with temperatures from 60 to 65 degrees can lead to hypothermia in older people.
  • To stay warm at home, wear long underwear under your clothes, along with socks and slippers. Use a blanket or afghan to keep your legs and shoulders warm and wear a hat or cap indoors.
  • When going outside in the cold, it is important to wear a hat, scarf, and gloves or mittens to prevent loss of body heat through your head and hands. A hat is particularly important because a large portion of body heat can be lost through the head. Wear several layers of warm loose clothing to help trap warm air between the layers.
  • Check with your doctor to see if any prescription or over-the-counter medications you are taking may increase your risk for hypothermia.

Because heating costs can be high, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has funds to help low-income families pay heating bills through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Applicants can call the National Energy Assistance Referral (NEAR) project at: 1-866-674-6327, e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or go to the LIHEAP website http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/resource/liheap-brochures. NEAR is a free service providing information on where you can apply for help through LIHEAP. The Administration for Children and Families funds the Energy Assistance Referral hotline.

The NIA has free information about hypothermia, a fact sheet, Hypothermia: A Cold Weather Hazard and a brochure, Stay Safe in Cold Weather. A fact sheet in Spanish, La hipotermia: un peligro del clima frío, is also available. These and other free publications on healthy aging can be downloaded from the NIA website or by calling NIA’s toll-free number: 1-800-222-2225.

The NIA leads the federal effort supporting and conducting research on aging and the medical, social and behavioral issues of older people. For more information on health, research and aging, go to www.nia.nih.gov.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

NIH...Turning Discovery Into Health

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Last Minute Precautions to Protect Your Home from Arctic Blast PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Tami Fillyaw   
Monday, 06 January 2014 13:47

An arctic blast is dropping temperatures in the U.S. to lows not seen in years.  According to the National Weather Service, 140 million people across the United States will shiver in temperatures of zero or lower. As temperatures continue to drop, and snow and ice threaten nearly half the nation, the nonprofit Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) recommends some last minute precautions that will help keep families safe and comfortable:

Prevent Frozen Pipes

Damage from frozen pipes is the second most common cause of insurance claims in America. The average homeowner will have to spend thousands to repair damage from a frozen, leaking pipes.

·         FOAM: Insulate pipes exposed to the elements or cold drafts. For as little as $1 per 6’ of insulation, you can stop pipes from freezing and save energy. By keeping your water warmer, you reduce the amount of energy needed to heat water in the cold, winter months.

·         DOME: Place an insulating dome or other coverings on outdoor faucets and spigots also reduce the likelihood of the water in your homes pipes freezing, expanding and causing a costly leak. You can purchase one for under $2 from your local home improvement store.

·         DRIP: By allowing a slow drip from your faucets, you reduce the build-up of pressure in the pipes. Even if the pipes freeze, you have released the pressure from the water system reducing the likelihood of a rupture.

Prevent Ice Dams

Ice dams are formed when air in the attic is warm enough to cause snow and ice on the roof to thaw and refreeze repeatedly. Pools of water then become trapped under layers of ice that seep under your roof covering (tiles or shingles) into the attic.

·         Seal all openings that would allow vapor to rise into the attic; this includes any holes created from installing light fixtures or ceiling fans.

·         Keep gutters and downspouts clear to allow melted snow and ice to flow away from your home.

·         Don’t use salt or other minerals to melt the snow on your roof. These are very damaging to roof shingles and tiles not to mention gutters and downspouts.

Check Your Insulation

Doors and windows are just some of the places that you should ensure are well insulated before the temperatures start to drop.

·         Check for air leaks around windows and doors using a lit incense stick. If the smoke is sucked out of an opening, seal the leak with caulk, spray foam or weather stripping.

Winterize Outside Your Home

·         Lay down a layer of deicing sand/salt to minimize the buildup of ice during the storm.

·         If you have time, clean your gutters so water doesn’t back up and freeze.

·         After blizzard conditions pass, lay down layers of deicing sand/salt to melt the snow and ice. Once it begins to melt you can chip away at the layers with a snow shovel to move it off of steps and walkways.

·         Turn off and drain all of your outdoor plumbing including hose connections, pool connections, sprinkler systems, etc. After you’ve turned off the water, leave faucets in the “on” position and remove any plastic components.

Have Emergency Kits in Your Home and Car

In case the power goes out, you should have flashlights, batteries, a three-day supply of food and water for everyone including pets, a battery-powered radio and a first-aid kit.  Make the same emergency kit for your car but add blankets and a distress flag.  Be sure to keep tow and tire chains in your trunk as well.  If you have time, consider buying a generator for your home, which will help keep your power, heat and security alarms running as well as help prevent frozen pipes.

For more information on weathering winter this season, visit www.greatwinterweatherparty.org or www.flash.org

 
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