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Winter weather: It could have been worse

Storm system leaves some people in the dark, causes accidents, but Sauk Valley dodged the worst of it

It started with rain, it turned to ice and then came the snow.

But it could have been worse – and in some parts the U.S., it was.

The Sauk Valley dealt with a wintry mix of rain, ice and snow over the weekend that made travel and home life difficult, but elsewhere, the expansive system was blamed for nearly a dozen deaths.

About 1.3 inches of freezing rain and sleet Friday night, aided by occasional bursts of wind of up to 30 mph, resulted in 0.1 to 0.3 inches of ice for most of northwest Illinois. Snow fell as temperatures dropped Saturday afternoon, with nearly 3 inches by Sunday morning throughout most of the area, and nearly 4 inches in parts of Ogle County.

Local sheriff’s departments responded to numerous weather-related accidents during the overnight hours Saturday morning into the evening, but none with any serious injuries. It was slow going on slick roads for emergency vehicles in Lee County, with some keeping the needle at about 20 mph as they responded to calls.

The number of calls decreased all around as rain turned into snow.

“It wasn’t as bad as it was thought to be,” Lee County sheriff deputy Pat Bodmer said Sunday morning.

There weren’t as many calls in Whiteside, where only a few accidents were reported Saturday, or in Carroll County, where none were reported.

Two minor accidents were reported Saturday in Sterling, and only one in Dixon, each with no injuries.

Power outages started at around 5 a.m. Saturday in western Ogle and eastern Carroll counties, and downed and arcing power lines were reported after 11 a.m. One transformer was knocked offline when a car hit a pole on West Grove Road near Freeport Road west of Forreston, affecting about 60 customers.

Most of Shannon lost power at about 1 p.m., but ComEd crews restored it by 4:15 p.m.

By 5 p.m. Saturday, 641 Ogle County customers were coping with by 47 outages, and 307 in Carroll County were affected by 38 outages in Carroll County. Those numbers dropped only slightly overnight, with remaining repairs scheduled for completion Sunday afternoon.

Far fewer outages were reported in Lee and Whiteside counties, with less than 50 people left in the dark.

Other parts of the country weren’t so lucky.

The storm system that swept across southern portions of the U.S. and the Midwest was blamed in the deaths of at least 11 people, including two first responders, as high winds, tornadoes, ice, and unrelenting rain battered large swaths of the country.

One person was killed Saturday on Interstate 80, near Iowa City, when the ice-covered highway sent a semi sliding off the road, killing a passenger in the truck.

To the south, storm-related fatalities were reported in Texas due to icy weather, in Alabama from a deadly tornado, in Oklahoma, where a man drowned, and in Louisiana, where winds were so strong that a trailer home was lifted off its foundation and carried several hundred feet.

In Texas,two first responders were killed and another was critically injured Saturday morning in Lubbock, after they were hit by a vehicle while working the scene of a traffic accident in icy conditions, officials said.

Police Officer Nicholas Reyna, 27, who had been with the department for 1 year, died at the scene. Firefighter Lt. David Hill, 39, was taken to a local hospital where he later died. Firefighter Matthew Dawson, 30, was hospitalized in critical condition.

Lubbock Police Chief Floyd Mitchell called it an “extremely tragic day” for the city.

“If people would respect road conditions, things like this wouldn’t have to happen,” said Lubbock Fire Chief Shaun Fogerson.

– The Associated Press contributed to this story


The forecast

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch for the Sauk Valley from 6 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Sunday.

No precipitation is expected during the day Monday, with a high near 36, but there is a 50% chance that the wintry mix will resume that night with gusts of up to 20 mph.

After a clear day Tuesday, a rain-and-snow mix is in the forecast Wednesday through Saturday. Temperatures are expected to swing from the lower to upper 30s through Friday, before taking a dive Saturday, when the high is expected to reach only 18 degrees.

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