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Peoria is bracing for a major winter snowstorm, just before the holidays. Here's what you need to know

The Peoria area is bracing for a major winter snowstorm, just in time to throw a wrench into holiday travel plans.

Peoria could see blizzard conditions and up six inches of snowfall. National Weather Service meteorologist John Bumgardner said the forecast Tuesday morning was a "little bit less ominous" than Monday's predictions, but the storm may lead to dangerous road conditions when coupled with wind gusts of up to 50 miles per hour.

"There's going to be a period where it's pretty treacherous. Thursday evening could be pretty bad too, because that's when the heaviest snow will fall. But the blowing and drifting Thursday night and Friday is going to be very bad. And we don't want that to catch anybody by surprise," he said.

Bumgardner says temperatures are also expected to drop by 30 to 40 degrees over a six-hour period late Thursday. Nick McMillion with Peoria Public Works said that creates an additional challenge for road crews.

"It'll all be about treating the roadways and getting them good and cleared before those cold temperatures really set in, because as the temperature drops, salt loses its effectiveness," McMillion said. "So it's going to be an interesting storm and it's going to be an interesting fight but we are definitely prepared and ready for it."

McMillion said areas of the city to the north are particularly prone to blowing and drifting snow conditions. He said crews may need to make multiple passes to keep those roadways navigable. In extreme situations, public works can use a SnoCrete to pulverize snow drifts. It's essentially an industrial snowblower that attaches to the front of an end-loader.

McMillion urged motorists to finish up holiday errands Tuesday and Wednesday, and to stay at home if possible on Thursday or Friday.

Gene Olson, director of the Gen. Wayne A. Downing Peoria International Airport, said their preparations for a major snow event started back in October. The airport uses chemical compounds to keep the runways clear, because road salt is corrosive to the aluminum used for aircraft. To keep snow removal efforts up continuously, maintenance crews will be split into two platoons working 12-hour shifts. Airport operations staff will also work 12-hour shifts.

"I think almost everybody here would prefer to have one big snow event rather than what I call a nickel and dime event, where you get a half an inch an hour for 24 hours. Nobody likes that. So I think this one might be where we get a lot of snow for a long period of time, which is kind of the worst case scenario," said Olson.

Olson said the airport crews essentially use brooms to move the snow, because they get down to the pavement more easily than plows. A plow and snowblower combo is deployed when the snow is particularly heavy.

Olson said the airfield and airport will remain open through the winter storm, but flights may be delayed or canceled depending on conditions.

The NWS in Lincoln has issued a winter storm watch running Thursday morning through late Friday night. Warming centers will be available in the city of Peoria as a major winter snow storm hits the region. The Peoria Police Department lobby is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. All Peoria fire stations also serve as warming centers from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

People can also call the Heart of Illinois United Way at 211 for help.

Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.