August 25, 2014

Schools, Including Champaign Central And Danville High, Dismissing Early Due To Heat

A number of area schools have announced they're letting out early on Monday, August 25th, due to a forecasted heat index of 100 to 105.  They include Champaign Central High School, which will dismiss at 1:05 today as well as Tuesday.

Unit 4 spokeswoman Stephanie Stuart says buses at Central will be available directly following this dismissal for regular afternoon routes.  Lunch will be provided, and all afternoon athletic activities will be held as scheduled.

Danville High School will also dismiss early, at 1:55, both Monday and Tuesday.  The other District 118 buildings, which are air conditioned, will follow the regular schedule.

Decatur Public Schools are dismissing early after three hours of school. Both the morning and afternoon sessions at the Pershing Early Learning are cancelled.

Monticello, Catlin,Tuscola and Bement School Districts are also dismissing one hour early, at 2 p.m. 

July 12, 2014

Flooding Risk Continues For Champaign County

Emergency authorities are cautioning Champaign County residents to watch out for flooded areas, after the county received from four to six inches of rain during a four-hour period Saturday.

The hardest-hit areas included parts of Champaign, Urbana and Savoy.

Rich Atterberry of the Champaign County Emergency Managementr Agency said in a news release that while most roads and streets have reopened, there was still heavy runoff. He warned against driving in flooded areas or playing in the water.

No injuries have been reported due to the flooding. But the Red Cross has opened an overnight shelter at the temporary site of Kenwood School, 1605 West Kirby in Champaign, for those who may be displaced by water or sewage.

Atterberry warned that another round of heavy rainfall was possible overnight, and warned motorists to be extremely cautious.

“It is nearly impossible to gauge the depth of water running over pavement, especially in the dark”, stated Atterberry.

The National Weather Service has placed Champaign County under a Flood Warning until 10 PM Saturday, followed by a Flash Flood Watch through Sunday afternoon.

February 06, 2014

Snowfall Makes Mobility Nearly Impossible For Wheelchair Users

More than 30 inches of snow have fallen on Champaign-Urbana this winter. Too often in this weather, property owners neglect shoveling city sidewalks. That can make it nearly impossible for some people to get around safely, including those who use a wheelchair or have trouble seeing well.

On a windy and cold Sunday afternoon, just a few days after a January snow storm, U of I student sophomore Meredith Bradford trudged through snow and ice-covered sidewalks in her power wheelchair.

“On the first day of school on this exact sidewalk that we’re gonna end up on was completely covered in ice and I slipped off of it and I had to have some random person help me get up again back onto the sidewalk,” Bradford said.

Champaign and Urbana both have ordinances that require property owners to clear sidewalks, but it only applies if they are located in certain districts, such as the downtown areas. That creates a problem for some people with a disability, like Bradford.

Bradford cannot get around too easily in her wheelchair on snow- and ice-covered pathways. The low-traction wheels are not well-suited for sidewalks with any snow or ice cover.

“I just hope that cars see me,” said U of I senior Stephanie Zaia, who also uses a power-wheelchair.

Zaia has a different strategy when she cannot make it over a sidewalk.

 “I would rather drive on the street than the sidewalks or the crosswalks,” she explained. “If it was up to me, I would drive in the middle of the road because people could see me there and it feels safer, at least in my mind.”

Zaia said she does that to keep from sliding off the sidewalks. As she walked in the windy cold, it took a couple of minutes for her to make it back onto the sidewalk without tipping over.

“Watch out,” she said.

Generally, Urbana and Champaign don’t issue notices to clear sidewalks in the snow-removal districts until at least two inches of snow, or any amount of ice, accumulates. But Kris Koester with Champaign’s Public Works department said the city could revise the policy if the conditions are bad enough.

Separate from the two cities, the U of I takes care of its own sidewalks and pathways. That does not include fraternity and sorority house that are adjacent to sidewalks.

Urbana enacted its snow-removal ordinance two years ago. Jason Arrasmith, the city’s environmental compliance officer, said if he can see people made an effort to clear sidewalks adjacent to their property, he will not issue them a fine.

 “We kind of hoped that people would comply on their own and be helpful and kind of take care of it, just in general, help each other out,” Arrasmith said. “And that’s more of what we try to educate and teach people that ‘Hey it only takes you another five or ten minutes. Clear the sidewalks out front and make it easier for your neighbors and those that need to get around.’”

The ordinance is still new, Arrasmith said, but he admitted it could be better.

Sheila Schneider, who has a visual impairment that all-but-eliminates her peripheral vision, said she agreed. She said that kind of neighborly camaraderie she would like does not carry over in either Champaign or Urbana.

“I live in West Champaign, and they’re absolutely hideous. Nobody shovels their sidewalks at all,” Schneider said.

Because the cities don’t have the personnel or revenue available to broaden the areas where the ordinance can be enforced, the responsibility remains with property owners.

U of I student Stephanie Zaia said that can be a real issue for her, especially when she has to sit holed up in her dorm room until enough of the snow is gone.

“It’s just frustrating because I don’t think that people that realize that when they shovel the snow that they realize how much we need it shoveled or even if they can shovel it as much as we need it,” Zaia said. “We need it clear.”


January 06, 2014

Streets Improve In C-U, County Roads Still Impassable

While road conditions are improving inside Champaign and Urbana city limits, authorities ask that travel not be attempted in rural areas.

Champaign County Emergency Management Spokesman Rick Atterberry said those roads remain impassable in most locations because of blowing and drifting snow and limited visibilities.   

He said there are hundreds of vehicles stuck in the county, slowing plowing operations, with drifts in some areas as high as eight feet. 

Atteberry said given the severe wind chills, getting trapped in a car in a rural area could be a life threatening situation.

He said Route 150 between Urbana and St. Joseph remains a major trouble spot as of late Monday morning.

“About 100 semi trucks ended up being stuck mid-afternoon to late afternoon Sunday, and they’re still there- while the state tries to get one lane open anyway, so that they can start moving those trucks," he said.  "It’s a slow go getting that untangled there.”

As of 10 a.m., Illinois State Police said Interstates 57, 72, and 74 are extremely dangerous with snow-packed drifts and icy patches. 

Meanwhile, warming centers are available at the Salvation Army Locations on Market Street and Prospect Avenue in Champaign, and at the Savoy United Methodist Church on Old Orchard Road.  

Savoy UMC Pastor Jim McClarey said it’s serving as a kind of an impromptu shelter for anyone who needs to get out of the cold, with about eight people staying there as of late Monday morning.

State-operated warming centers remain open in Champaign at 1307 N. Mattis Avenue, and 705 N. Country Fair Drive.  Another in Danville is operating at 407 N. Franklin Ave.

January 06, 2014

New Low For January 6 In Chicago

The bitter cold is shattering records in Illinois, including one in Chicago that's 120 years old.

The National Weather Service is Romeoville says the temperature sank to 16 degrees below zero on Monday morning at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. 

The wind chill made it feel far colder and the  temperature was continuing to fall.
The new record is two degrees lower than has ever been on Jan. 6. That record was reached just two times when it fell to 14 below zero in Chicago on Jan. 6 in 1894 and again in 1988.

January 06, 2014

Bloomington Man, 71, Dies After Clearing Snow

Central Illinois officials say a 71-year-old man died this weekend when he collapsed after clearing snow.

McLean County Coroner Beth Kimmerling says the Bloomington man died Sunday afternoon at his home. 

She said he'd been blowing snow for about 10 minutes when he came inside and collapsed.

Kimmerling said the man had heart problems that led to his collapse.

His name hasn't been released.

The National Weather Service says more than 7 inches of snow fell in Bloomington during the weekend snowstorm. 

January 05, 2014

"Winter Storm Ion" Hampers Travel, Causes Closings

An Emergency Management spokesman is advising against travel in Champaign County, as a winter storm moves through central and southeast Illinois on Sunday.

“As the snow continues to fall, winds begin to pick up and the temperature falls to below zero a very dangerous situation is developing”, wrote Champaign County EMA spokesman Rick Atterberry in an email to news media. Atterberry added that visibility outside Champaign-Urbana had become “very limited”.

Snow Emergency Routes have been activated in some towns, including Danville and Hoopeston.

The Illinois Department of Transportation reported that as of this morning, Winter Storm Ion was bringing snow, and in some cases, freezing rain, to a majority of the state.The heaviest snow is expected southeast of the Taylorville to Champaign line, with 5 to 9 inches of snow accumulation forecast for Champaign and Vermilion Counties. After the storm moves through, historically cold temperatures are expected throughout Illinois with temperatures to fall to 15 below zero and wind chills ranging from 35 to 45 below zero through Tuesday.

The National Weather Service has a Winter Storm Warning in effect until Sunday night at midnight. After that, a Wind Chill Warning is in effect until Tuesday at noon.  Counties covered by the warnings include Champaign, Vermilion, Piatt, DeWitt, Ford, Macon, Moultrie, Douglas and Coles Counties.

The forecast of the winter storm led several area churches to cancel their services Sunday morning. Now, additional agencies are canceling activities and closing their offices for Monday, when sub-zero temperatures are expected to follow the storm.

Urbana School District 116 has canceled classes for Monday. Classes at the Champaign Unit Four School District don’t resume until Wednesday, but the district has cancelled all other district activities and closed its offices for Monday --- except for an essential personnel group.

The Danville, Clinton, Monticello and Paxton-Buckley-Loda districts, and the Montessori School of Champaign-Urbana, have also announced the cancellation of Monday classes. The Mahomet-Seymour school district, which has no classes scheduled for Monday, has cancelled its Teachers' Institute for that day.

The Champaign Public Library and the Urbana Free Library are closed Sunday and Monday. The Mahomet Public Library is closed for Sunday. And the Danville and Tolono libraries are closed on Monday.

Courthouses are closed Monday in the Illinois 6th Judicial Circuit, which covers Champaign, Dewitt, Douglas, Macon, Moultrie and Piatt Counties.

In addition to its courthouse, Champaign County government has closed many county offices on Monday, including the Brookens Administrative Center and the Sheriff’s Administrative office.

Urbana city offices are mostly closed on Monday, and the Monday night Urbana City Council meeting has been canceled. The Champaign City Building and City of Champaign Township offices will also be closed.

In addition, offices of the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District and Douglas County Health Department will be closed on Monday. The Developmental Services Center in Champaign has cancelled its programs for Monday.

A list of closings and weather notices coming into Illinois Public Media is available on this website, under the heading “Severe Weather Closings” on the top right-hand side.

January 03, 2014

Weather Prompts Closure To Sixth Judicial Circuit Monday

Monday’s forecast of subzero temperatures, wind and snow has prompted the closure of all courthouses in the 6th Judicial Circuit, including Champaign County.

Chief 6th District Judge Dan Flannel of Moultrie County made the announcement Friday afternoon.  That means all circuit court proceedings in Champaign, Dewitt, Douglas, Macon, Moultrie, and Piatt counties will be postponed, at least for a day.

Brian Kelly is the Chief Deputy for the Champaign County Circuit Clerk.  He said anyone scheduled for jury duty on Monday should be scheduled for Tuesday, but jurors are asked to call the courthouse’s automated line Monday evening to be sure.

But Kelly says re-scheduling court appearances will be a little more difficult.  He says anyone with a hearing scheduled for Jan. 6th will have to be rescheduled.

"It will take a little time for the courts to decide when their next open dates are to reset those dates."

Macon County Presiding Judge A.G. Webber encourages those who were scheduled to be in court Monday to check the circuit clerk website for updates.

Champaign County Sheriff Dan Walsh said he can recall three prior times during his 11 years in office that weather has forced the courthouse to close.  

Chief Judge Flannel said it's likely the first time that all courthouses in the circuit opted to close a few days in advance of severe weather.

"It's a situation where, particularly in the bigger counties, where they end up with people standing in line to get in in the mornings," he said.  "We just can't take that risk with these temperatures that are predicted.  I know Champaign County has the situation on Mondays frequently where they've got people lined up, going outside the doors.  We just can't have that."

The Champaign County Brookens Administrative Center will also be closed on Monday. 

January 03, 2014

Champaign Lifts One Snow Ordinance, Activates Another

The City of Champaign has de-activated its emergency snow routes, but activated its ordinance requiring Downtown and Campustown sidewalks to be cleared.

The sidewalk ordinance went into effect at 11 a.m. Friday.   It requires sidewalks to be cleared 48 hours after the declaration. 

Sidewalks must maintain a path the wide of the sidewalk or 48”, whichever is less.  Those not in compliance could be cleared at the owner’s expense.

As of 10:45 Friday morning, the prohibited parking ban on the following routes has been lifted:

-University Ave. from State St. to Mattis Ave.

-Church Street from State St. to Mattis Ave.

-State Street from Bradley Ave. to Kirby Ave.

-Randolph Street from Bradley Ave. to Hessel Blvd.

-Hessel Boulevard from State St. to Neil St.

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