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Blizzard buries southern Illinois in snow

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A gusty winter storm that slammed southern Illinois on Wednesday could have been reason enough for Renee Galen to stay home. The Albion City Hall worker's SUV sat buried under 18 inches of snow in her driveway, and the small town's roads were all but impassable to everything except snow plows.

So she hitched a ride with one.

Galen, the deputy collector for the community of 1,900 residents near the Indiana border, was the only one who made it in Wednesday, which was the last day residents could declare they were running for local office in the spring elections.

"Somebody needed to be here today," Galen said while quietly wrestling with how to eventually free her car.

In that challenging pursuit, she wasn't alone.

The National Weather Service in Paducah, Ky., issued the first blizzard warning in that office's 21-year history for the 58 counties it covers in parts of Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky and Indiana, meteorologist Robin Smith said. As of Wednesday morning, Albion had gotten the most snow, but parts of Missouri's Bootheel received 9 inches as well.

The slow-moving storm that began pounding the region late Tuesday and into Wednesday was expected to drop another several inches of snow before tapering off Wednesday afternoon. Snow accumulation often doesn't tend to stick around long in southern Illinois, but that may not be the case this time, with high temperatures expected to hover around the freezing point and lows likely to dip into mid-teens or low 20s.

A slight chance of snow was forecast for Friday, "but nothing like we've just gotten," Smith said.

The storm caused its share of havoc, forcing closures of courthouses throughout southern Illinois and creating slick, whiteout conditions that made travel the day after Christmas treacherous.

In Pinckneyville, Ill., about 60 miles southeast of St. Louis, Rich Emling wasn't catching much of a break. Emling and other workers at his eight-truck towing business had been scrambling to muscle vehicles out of ditches and other tough spots since well before daybreak Wednesday as the region's first significant snowstorm of the season left its mark.

Emling, 43, wasn't expecting any relief later in the day, when he suspected slushy roads to freeze.

"I'm not going to say we're overly swamped, but we're certainly steady," he said while hauling away a minivan that had slid off a road and hit a culvert. Even before dropping off that vehicle, Emling had another motorist in distress waiting for help.

"When I was a kid, we had snowstorms all the time, but it seems like we get just two or three nowadays," Emling said.

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