January weather goes from lion to lamb

January came in like a lamb but went out like a lion, with temperatures early in the month of well above average, but ending with bone-chilling cold of 35 degrees lower than normal.

Through it all, with the thermometer hitting 17 below zero in East Central Illinois on Jan. 30 and wind chills 20 to 30 degrees less than that, local communities reported few disruptions in utilities and other services.

Schools did close on Wednesday and Thursday due to the frigid conditions, including the cancelation of classes in Arthur, Bement, Blue Ridge, Cerro Gordo, DeLand-Weldon and Monticello, as well as most others in East Central Illinois.

In addition, the Piatt County Courthouse was also closed.

“Drip your faucets!” was the main recommendation of Monticello Public Works Director Jim Grabarczyk, who said there were water line breaks reported in several homes. Keeping water running in pipes that are closer to outside walls can keep them from bursting in the cold.

A total of 56 homes in Monticello’s Appletree Subdivision were without natural gas service for about two hours during one of the polar vortex’ coldest stretches from about 9 to 11 a.m. on Jan. 31, but no injuries were reported.

Warming centers were set up in Monticello and Bement, but were not used, according to local officials.

Most city and village workers were on the job during the bitter cold days.

Monticello Township Road Commissioner Charlie Montgomery manned his office, keeping two full-timers on call in case of emergencies.

He said the only problems were parts of rural highways where road salt is useless during extreme cold weather.

“This hard freeze created fast thawing of snow and ice in the lower areas of our township’s rural roads, with the water raising and sometimes crossing the roads because many of the drainage ditches were still frozen, blocking their drainage,” said Montgomery. “And then the standing water on the road’s edges or across the road froze solid form this fast hard freeze, creating some slick areas where the salt could not dissolve because of the extra low temps.”

The Illinois Water Survey reported that temperatures never reached the zero mark on Wednesday in the Urbana-Champaign area, with the low of 17 below zero being 35 degrees less than normal for this time of year.

That contrasts to Jan. 7, when the thermometer hit 51 degrees, 26 degrees above average.

An unofficial record low for Illinois was recorded when a weather observer in Mt. Carroll reported a temperature of 38 degrees below zero on Jan. 30. If confirmed, it would be lower than the current state mark, a 36 below zero temperature recorded in Congerville on Jan. 5, 1999.

No weather-related issues were reported at Monticello High School. Last year a three-day break turned into five-day weekend for Monticello High School students after several hot water heating system pipes froze, busted and leaked water into the 1966 section of the school.

It was business as usual at the Piatt County Nursing Home during the two days of extreme cold, with Director Scott Porter reporting “we did not have a single call off due to weather or for any other reason among our scheduled staff across all shifts (Wednesday). When the staff feel that their residents need them they have always been there and make the extra effort. It happens time and time again.”



Area community leaders were quick to give kudos out to those who were working out in weather that could cause frostbite after just 10 minutes of exposure.

“My hats is off to the City of Monticello Water Department staff for their dedication and commitment to serving the people of Monticello, working outdoors during these dangerously frigid temperatures,” added Montgomery. “As well as the outdoor Ameren staff for trying to keep all power on for our area’s residents.”

Former Monticello Alderman Cochran Keating also chipped in with kind words in a Facebook post on Jan. 31.

“City pubic works guys blanketed our town all day yesterday helping us thaw frozen meters and lines. Fixing plumbing, sprayed with freezing water while they worked, and trying to avoid frostbite. They are all probably out there again today. If they were working in the private sector, they would all get a bonus for duty above and beyond. They have nothing to do with rate hikes or politics...just out there getting it done! Thanks guys,” said Keating.

In Hammond, Village Clerk/Treasurer Brenda Sebens wanted to make sure all knew that “Ron Miller was out and make sure everything is still working.”

Kay Lust, the village clerk in Bement, was thankful “no emergency calls were reported.” She also thanked Bridget Rund of The Lucky Monkey for making sure warm soup was on hand at the warming center, located at the Bement Municipal Building.

Just prior to the cold snap on Jan. 28, water was shut off for the entire village of DeLand due to a water main break. The outage lasted about four hours, and a boil order was lifted at 11:30 a.m. Jan. 30.

Among those helping with the repair were DeLand maintenance worker Max Porter, David Burke and Greg Valentine from Goose Creek Township, and Eric Followell from the Village of Weldon.

Categories (2):News, Weather


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