Polar Vortex forces statewide closures

Steven Barnum , News editor

Area schools and numerous businesses closed their doors after record-low and life-threatening temperatures lingered across the state of Illinois on Wednesday.

Temperatures in Rockford, Ill. and Moline, Ill. surpassed previous low records, while Chicago communities experienced the second-coldest day in the city’s history. More than 1,300 individuals were rescued on the Illinois roadways between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., according to the Illinois State Police, who received nearly 500 service calls in that time frame. The department says that is 10 times the amount of rescues and calls on the average winter day.

Mail delivery was put on hold in parts of 10 states across the Midwest. More than 1,500 flights at O’Hare Airport were cancelled and Amtrak cancelled all outgoing trains in Chicago on Wednesday and its Midwest corridor services for Thursday.

More than 1,300 Illinois residents in the communities of Peoria, Sterling and Spring Valley experienced power outages from damages to the power lines caused by the cold. The majority of those without power are customers of Ameren, who says that the company is assessing the damage and working to restore power.

As of Thursday morning, the death toll has reached eight people in Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Indiana and Illinois, where two deaths in Libertyville and Pekin were caused by the cold. Meteorologists warned residents throughout the Midwest that they would risk frostbite with only five minutes of exposure.

In the McDonough County region, temperatures dipped below negative 20 degrees, accompanied by wind chill levels at roughly negative 40 degrees. The frigid temperatures forced the city of Macomb to designate several warming centers for area residents to avoid the elements. During Monday evening’s committee of the whole meeting, Mayor Mike Inman shared that the city had prepared a safety plan as early as last week.

Western Illinois University called off classes for Wednesday, joining fellow Illinois colleges like Northern Illinois University, Eastern Illinois University, Bradley University and Illinois State University, which was also closed Thursday. Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, Ill. remained open all week. Western sent out a press release advising students and faculty to stay safe in the midst of the dangerous and historically low temperatures in the region. The university issued a weather advisory for both the Macomb and Quad Cities campuses before resuming classes and regularly scheduled activities Thursday.