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Peoria issues emergency declaration after region records heavy overnight snowfall

The Peoria area was among the areas hardest hit overnight by the winter snowstorm passing through Central Illinois, and Peoria city officials are advising residents to stay at home.

Peoria Mayor Rita Ali issued an emergency declaration on Wednesday morning. That marks the beginning of a disaster period, with reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency possible for expenses.

In a media release, the city said drivers are getting stuck on snow-packed roads and hills, with the emergency communications center receiving 50 overnight calls for disabled vehicles. That compounds the challenges for snow removal crews.

“When cars get stuck, you stop our ability to fight this storm,” Public Works Director Rick Powers said in the release.

The National Weather Service office in Lincoln reported an unofficial snowfall total of 12 inches in Peoria as of 4 p.m. Wednesday. Eleven inches of snow was measured by the NWS in East Peoria, Roanoke, and Dunlap around 2 p.m. A foot of snow was reported a mile north of Peoria at 2:30 p.m.

The region's heaviest overnight snowfall reports both came from Fulton County, with 11 inches at Lewistown and 10 inches in Vermont.

Ben Deublebeiss, a meteorologist with the NWS in Lincoln, said the heaviest snow had moved out of the Peoria area by Wednesday morning.

"There could be some additional light accumulations, especially overnight tonight, probably up to an inch but in the Peoria area but greater as you head south and east of the area,” said Deublebeiss.

“That being said, we do have strong winds that are going to be picking up through the day today out of the north. So even though the snowfall may be ending, we're expecting to see some blowing and drifting.”

Roadways are still largely uncleared, as snow continues to fall across the region, with the NWS forecasting new accumulations of 1-2 inches per hour, depending on the area. Authorities advise avoiding travel if possible.

“We are still out tandem plowing with the trucks to keep all the main arterials open,” said Peoria Public Works Deputy Director Sie Maroon. “We have contractors that are going to go into the residential areas here about the 9 o'clock hour, so we're going to have pretty much everything covered in terms of being able to get out and get everything plowed.

“Now, it's not all going to happen in the next half hour or half a day. We're going to need some time to get all this done, because we got we’ve got another system coming in later on tonight that's going to impact what the roads look like between tonight and tomorrow morning.”

A collision alert is in effect for Peoria County. Drivers in accidents where no one is injured should submit reports to the Peoria County Sheriff's Office within 48 hours after the alert is called off. The city of Peoria is also under a collision alert. Drivers in accidents not involving injuries in the city should submit a report within 36 hours after the alert is lifted.

Brett Olson, the operations manager for the city of Pekin, said crews there are working in two sixteen-hour shifts to keep the main roads passable.

"We're making do. We're getting there slowly but surely. Hopefully, the heaviest stuff is behind us," Olson said, noting it may take some time for crews to start on the side streets.

“Because the storm's supposed to last into tonight and maybe into tomorrow, I'm anticipating Friday. We're fighting an uphill battle like everybody else.”

In Tazewell County, assistant county engineer Dan Parr described road conditions as “precarious.”

“It’s probably advisable to stay home if at all possible,” said Parr, who noted he got stuck on his way into work. “(The roads) are open, and we're going to maintain that throughout the day here, the best we can. There's considerable drifting and visibility issues, but we’re staying on top of it.”

Parr said they had about 10 plow trucks out starting around 4 a.m., and they plan to have a smaller crew on hand overnight Wednesday into Thursday. He said southern parts of the county were hit harder than the northern parts.

“Some of the roads, depending if they’re north-south or east-west, you've got these periodic drifts across the road that could be a considerable hindrance to a sedan or passenger car.

“We'll just keep roads as passable as we can, keep the drifts off during the day here and then we'll have some crews working through the night to continue that the best we can.”

Schools, government offices, and many businesses throughout the region are closed today. Check our list of cancellations for a full roundup.

This story will be updated throughout the winter storm event. Check back for updates.

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.
Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.