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Weather blog: Latest updates about the winter storm coming for the holidays

Published December 21, 2022 at 7:00 AM CST

The latest updates from the WGLT newsroom about the winter storm that's expected to hit central Illinois starting on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022, just ahead of Christmas weekend.

Do you have a cancellation you'd like to report? Contact us at news@wglt.org.

Power Outages

Corn Belt reports outage near Covell; 300 customers without power

Posted December 22, 2022 at 7:50 PM CST

UPDATED: This outage has been resolved.

Corn Belt Energy says about 300 customers are without power in McLean County, concentrated in the Covell area. That's a small community about 9 miles west of Bloomington-Normal.

"We are aware on an outage in the Covell area,"the energy co-op said around 6:25 p.m. Thursday. "Crews are being dispatched to investigate the issue. Please be patient as conditions are dangerous and linemen are working in extreme and freezing conditions. Please call in outages so we are aware of all those without power. Thank you and we apologize for the issue."

"Several crews are currently patrolling line and verifying equipment at our Covell Substation," Corn Belt said.


Wind chill values could hit 39 below overnight

Posted December 22, 2022 at 6:31 PM CST

The National Weather Service says that Bloomington-Normal could see wind chill values dip to nearly 40 below zero early Friday morning.

The lowest wind chills are expected between 9 p.m. Thursday and 9 a.m. Friday, according to the NWS. Bloomington-Normal should expect wind chill values as low as -39 overnight. Frostbite can occur in as little as 10 minutes on unexposed skin in these conditions.

But there's some good news: We're still a week away, but the forecast for next Thursday (Dec. 29) is a high of 48 degrees. And breezy.

The wind chill forecast, as of Thursday afternoon.
National Weather Service
The wind chill forecast, as of Thursday afternoon.

Road Conditions

IDOT cameras show how how interstates and major roads are looking

Posted December 22, 2022 at 6:22 PM CST

If you're lucky enough to not have to travel Thursday night, the Illinois Department of Transportation's Gateway Traffic Cameras can give you a glimpse of what you're missing.

Check out the Gateway Traffic Cameras interactive map to see recent still images taken along interstates and major state routes around Bloomington-Normal.

A view of Veterans Parkway and College Avenue in Normal, as of 6:10 p.m. Thursday.
Illinois Gateway Traffic Cameras
A view of Veterans Parkway and College Avenue in Normal, as of 6:10 p.m. Thursday.

IDOT's GettingAroundIllinois.com site is another tool to check the status of interstates and major state routes. As of 6:15 p.m. Thursday, most interstates in McLean County were shown as "Partly Covered With Ice Or Snow."

Here's how Interstate 55 is looking near North Main Street in north Normal, as of 6:10 p.m. Thursday.
Illinois Gateway Traffic Cameras
Here's how Interstate 55 is looking near North Main Street in north Normal, as of 6:10 p.m. Thursday.

Be Prepared

Grocery stores staff up as customers stock up ahead of the storm

Posted December 22, 2022 at 2:53 PM CST

Bloomington-Normal grocery stores have been especially busy in recent days as the area prepares for the winter storm.

Dawn Buzynski is a spokesperson for Hy-Vee. Buzynski said the company’s stores have brought in additional staff and supervisors to help make sure the shelves are well stocked.

“We definitely are making adjustments. We are moving some of our deliveries to our store up, just so we can make sure our stories have the inventory they need to take care of our customers but also to keep our drivers who are on the road safe as well,” Buzynski said.

Buzynski warns customers to be prepared for long lines and crowded aisles.

She recommends going to the store earlier in the day when it's less busy.

Traffic moves down Main Street in Normal on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022.
Ryan Denham
Traffic moves down Main Street in Normal midday Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022.


Amtrak reduces routes through the Christmas weekend due to the winter storm

Posted December 22, 2022 at 2:51 PM CST

Amtrak has reduced service due to the winter storm. That means fewer daily routes on the Lincoln Service and Texas Eagle routes that travel through Bloomington-Normal.

Spokesperson Marc Magliari said Amtrak projected passenger traffic would be light over the next few days once predictions of severe weather surfaced earlier this week.

“State transportation agencies, the local highway departments, and cities are saying ‘stay home.’ Running trains out there is counterintuitive to the whole message about staying home and let the storm go by,’ Magliari said.

Magliari said Amtrak plans to return to full service on Monday.

Road Conditions

Why you will see yellow tape around cars stuck in the ditch

Posted December 22, 2022 at 12:45 PM CST

From the Bloomington Fire Department's Facebook page:

"What's the yellow ribbon all about? When a vehicle is in the ditch or on the side of the road has a yellow ribbon on it, that means we have already checked it and you don't need to call us. Be prepared if you travel."

Bloomington Fire Department

Be Prepared

What to do if your car gets stuck in the ditch

Posted December 22, 2022 at 12:42 PM CST

Here's some useful advice from the Bloomington Police Department, shared to its Facebook page.

If your car gets stuck during a storm:

Stay in the vehicle. If you leave your vehicle, you will become disoriented quickly in wind-driven snow and cold.

Run the motor about 10 minutes each hour for heat. While running the motor, open the window a little for fresh air to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Clear snow from the exhaust pipe to avoid gas poisoning.

— Be visible to rescuers.

— Turn on the dome light at night when running the engine.

Tie a bright colored cloth, preferably red, to your antenna or door.

— After snow stops falling, raise the hood to indicate you need help.

Be Prepared

What to do if you lose power during the storm

Posted December 22, 2022 at 7:56 AM CST

Gusty winds could bring down tree branches and lead to isolated power outages during this winter storm. Here’s some advice for how to prepare for power outages – before and after.

Tips courtesy of FEMA, Ready Illinois, the Red Cross, and Constellation Energy.

You may also want to bookmark the outage maps for Ameren Illinois and Corn Belt Energy.

Keep a flashlight, battery-operated weather radio, and other emergency supplies handy.

Do not use candles; they are a fire hazard.

Stay connected and alert. Sign up for alert systems and apps for text alerts. Have communication devices that work without home power, including a crank or battery radio, a non-cordless home phone, chargers/batteries for your cell phones and your computers.

Find alternate power source. Plan for batteries and alternative power sources to meet your needs when the power goes out, such as a portable charger or power bank. Have flashlights for every household member. Determine whether your home phone will work in a power outage and how long battery backup will last. Remember, never use a generator indoors.

Appliances. Disconnect appliances and electronics to avoid damage from electrical surges. Install carbon monoxide detectors with battery backup in central locations on every level of your home to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

Food storage. Keep freezers and refrigerators closed. A refrigerator will keep food cold for four hours. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours. If you are in doubt, monitor temperatures with a thermometer and throw out food if the temperature is 40 degrees or higher. Maintain a few days’ supply of nonperishable food and water.

Know your medical needs. If you rely on electricity for any medical needs, make a power outage plan for medical devices or refrigerated medicines. Find out how long medication can be stored at higher temperatures and get specific guidance for any medications that are critical for life.

Plan how to decide to stay or go. Plan how and when you will evacuate safely to maintain needs such as power-dependent medical devices. Keep your car gas tank at least half full.


Plunging temperatures are coming today

Posted December 22, 2022 at 7:39 AM CST

Road Conditions

Normal's public works chief: 'If you can, stay home. That's the best choice'

Posted December 21, 2022 at 6:28 PM CST

Some of us spent Wednesday making a pre-storm grocery store run or grabbing a last-minute gift before Christmas. Normal's public works crews were getting ready too.

"We've been loading the trucks with salt and making sure everything is in good working order. So we're ready to go for the snow," said Normal Public Works chief Ryan Otto.

a photo of Ryan Otto
Town of Normal
Normal Public Works chief Ryan Otto.

Road salt becomes less effective as temperatures plunge, as they're expected to starting Thursday. Otto said the town monitors pavement temperatures pretty closely to see what impact salting is having. They don't want to inadvertently create slick conditions with the flash-freezing of melted snow.

"The timing is harder to get right, in terms of putting it down. You don't want to put it down during the snow, because then you'd just plow it off. Our supervisors and plow drivers will be monitoring where we're at with removing the snow, and then the salting will occur during but mostly after the snowstorm."

Otto's message to the public is simple: "If you can, stay home. That's the best choice. But if you have to be out, just be careful. Be mindful of the plows, and make sure to stay away from them as they're navigating the streets."

Cancellations & Closures

Here's what's closed Thursday and Friday because of the weather

Posted December 21, 2022 at 3:15 PM CST

Here's a look at current weather-related cancellations in Bloomington-Normal.

Closed on Thursday 12/22

  • Illinois State University, Normal
  • Heartland Community College, all locations
  • Normal Township and Normal Township Activity and Recreation Center
  • Children's Discovery Museum, Uptown Normal
  • Normal Theater - Thursday and Friday movie screenings are canceled
  • McLean County Museum of History and Crusin’ with Lincoln on 66 Visitors Center, downtown Bloomington
  • Office of the City of Bloomington Township
  • After 11 a.m., all CEFCU Member Centers and departments in Illinois
  • After 11:30 a.m., the University of Illinois Extension Offices in Livingston County, McLean County and Unity Community Center
  • After 12 p.m., Town of Normal offices at City Hall, Engineering, Inspections, Water and Parks and Recreation
  • After 5 p.m., Bloomington Public Library
  • After 5 p.m., Normal Public Library
  • After 3 p.m., YWCA McLean County
  • After 6 p.m., Bloomington-Normal YMCA

Closed on Friday 12/23

  • Miller Park Zoo, Bloomington
  • Bloomington Public Library
  • Normal Public Library
  • Children's Discovery Museum, Uptown Normal
  • YWCA McLean County - also closed Friday 12/23
  • All CEFCU Member Centers and departments in Illinois
Cancellations & Closures

ISU will be closed Thursday due to the weather

Posted December 21, 2022 at 11:34 AM CST

Due to forecasted extreme weather conditions anticipated to begin in the morning, Illinois State University says it will close Thursday beginning at 6 a.m. Only weather-essential personnel should report to work.

Students are already off-campus for winter break. The campus will be closed as planned for winter break, from Friday through Jan. 2.


It's officially a Winter Storm Warning now

Posted December 21, 2022 at 11:16 AM CST

A winter storm warning will go into effect at 6 a.m. Thursday for McLean County and the rest of central Illinois, according to the National Weather Service. (It was previously a winter storm watch.)

Total snow accumulations of 2 to 4 inches are expected. Winds gusts as high as 50 miles per hour are possible, resulting in blowing and drifting snow. Visibility will be a quarter-mile or less at times. Wind chill values could plunge as low as 35 below zero.

The winter storm warning is in effect until 6 a.m. Saturday.

Road Conditions

Bloomington's public works crews get ready for the storm

Posted December 21, 2022 at 11:10 AM CST

Bloomington’s public works crews say they’re ready for the storm.

They’ve spent the week checking on trucks, plows, and salt-spreaders to make sure everything’s in working order, said Public Works director Kevin Kothe.

Kevin Kothe portrait
City of Bloomington
Bloomington Public Works director Kevin Kothe.

“In the end, what comes is what comes. Sometimes, the forecast changes at the last minute,” he said.

The forecast calls for bitter cold temperatures, starting Thursday. Wind chill values could go as low as 35 below zero. Road salt becomes less effective as temperatures plunge, said Kothe. And then the snow gets lighter and blows around more.

“Salt sometimes then can be a detriment in certain situations, where the salt will cause the snow to stick on the road as opposed to blowing off the road. There are lots of pros and cons that go into deciding when to salt,” Kothe said.

Bloomington residents can track snow-removal progress on the City of Bloomington’s interactive map. Kothe said the public should know his crews may struggle with blowing and drifting snow.

“Especially in those areas that are at the edges of the city, that tend to drift. We can have plow trucks go through there, and less than a half-hour later it might be completely drifted over and closed back up again,” Kothe said.

Stay Warm

Connect Transit offers zero-fare during extreme cold weather

Posted December 21, 2022 at 10:24 AM CST

Connect Transit will offer zero-fare boarding on all buses, including Connect Mobility, from Thursday through Saturday.

"We recognize the need for a warm, safe place out of the elements, and wish to offer this comfort and necessity to everyone during this time," Bloomington-Normal's public transit service said in a statement.

Connect Transit will close early on Christmas Eve (Saturday) and will not operate Christmas Day (Sunday). It will resume its regular schedule on Monday.

Storm damage

State Farm's tips to prevent frozen pipes — and what to do if it happens anyway

Posted December 21, 2022 at 10:04 AM CST

With bitter cold temperatures expected over holiday weekend, State Farm has some advice for central Illinois homeowners and renters about preventing frozen pipes.

The Bloomington-based insurer says it's paid over $10.8 million for claims related to frozen pipes and winter water losses in Illinois. The national average for these claims is just over $20,000.

From State Farm:

Frozen pipes

There are some things you can do to prevent frozen pipes from happening:

  • Let faucets drip overnight to keep water moving freely.
  • Open cabinet doors to allow heat to get to uninsulated pipes under sinks and on exterior walls.
  • Disconnect garden hoses or use indoor valve to shut off and drain water from pipes.
  • Ensure your home maintains adequate heat inside, at least 55 degrees.
  • Water can be shut off to prevent freezing pipes but note that fire suppression systems will be deactivated when water is shut off.

When pipes freeze

  • If you turn on your faucets and nothing comes out, leave the faucets turned on and call a plumber.
  • Avoid applying flames to thaw pipes. Never try to thaw a pipe with a torch or other open flame because it could cause a fire hazard. Water damage is preferable to burning down your house!
  • Use a hair dryer as a possible heat source (with caution). You may be able to thaw a frozen pipe using a hair dryer — again, make sure you are not in standing water. Start by warming the pipe as close to the faucet as possible, working toward the coldest section of pipe.
  • Shut off the water supply. If your water pipes have already burst, turn off the water at the main shutoff valve in the house. Make sure everyone in your family knows where the water shutoff valve is and how to open and close it. Be sure to leave the water faucets turned on.
  • Contact your insurance company if there is damage.
Stay Warm

Map shows warming centers and shelters in McLean County

Posted December 21, 2022 at 9:00 AM CST

Bitter cold temperatures are expected in Bloomington-Normal starting Thursday and lasting into the holiday weekend. The cold wind chills as low as 35 below zero could cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 30 minutes, according to the National Weather Service.

McLean County's Emergency Management Agency maintains a list of warming centers and shelters, which is visible on an interactive map.

Warming Center – A short term emergency location where people can get out of dangerous temperatures to prevent injury or loss of life. Typically, a stopping point until the people can move on, or to, a more appropriate facility. No food or sleeping accommodations are provided. Some warming centers are 24 hour businesses where people can stop in.

Shelter – Severe weather shelters are emergency locations where people can get out of dangerous temperatures to prevent injury or loss of life. Shelters provide food and (typically) places to sleep. These are longer term than warming centers. Stranded travelers, the homeless population, and families that have lost heat or electricity are the population that shelters are established to assist.

Road Conditions

Monitor the interstates with IDOT's GettingAroundIllinois.com

Posted December 21, 2022 at 7:05 AM CST

The Illinois Department of Transportation is reminding the public to visit and bookmark GettingAroundIllinois.com for continually updated information on road conditions.

GettingAroundIllinois.comis available on your computer and optimized for smartphones. The site includes the ability to identify and zoom in on a location, travel route or destination on a state map. Road conditions are recorded by plow drivers out in the field and relayed to GettingAroundIllinois.com through a cloud-based system to provide a general overview on IDOT-maintained highways.

“Our No. 1 priority is making sure roads are safe for the motoring public, but you should always prepare yourself before taking any trips,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman. “Completely clearing roads during and after a weather event can take some time and depends on a variety of factors. We will get the job done, but ask the public to please remain patient during winter weather and always check GettingAroundIllinois.com before driving anywhere for the most updated road conditions.”


2-4 inches of snow expected in Bloomington-Normal

Posted December 21, 2022 at 7:02 AM CST

Blizzard conditions are possible across central Illinois on Thursday and Friday, threatening to snarl holiday travel plans.

A winter storm watch goes into effect Thursday morning for Bloomington-Normal and the rest of central Illinois, according to the National Weather Service. Snowfall of between 4 and 4 inches is expected, with wind gusts as high as 45 miles per hour. Blowing snow will create difficult, or impossible, travel conditions, the NWS says.

Dangerously cold wind chills are also expected — as low as 34 below in Bloomington-Normal.

Bitterly cold wind chills are also expected Saturday (Christmas Eve) and Sunday (Christmas Day) mornings.