Windchills dipped to 50 below zero in worst of cold snap
HENNEPIN — Oftentimes winter weather creates scenic beauty. However, this past week in Putnam County was anything other than a wonderland.
Record-setting cold that provided a local experience of Arctic conditions swept across much of the nation last week and created life-threatening conditions. Snow quickly turned to freezing rain. That was followed by more snow, wind, ice and then more snow. Accompanying that was a dramatic drop into sub-zero temperatures on Wednesday and Thursday, with actual temperatures in the 20-below-zero range and frighteningly cold wind chills that approached minus 50 degrees.
Bob Byrne, a member of the Cooperative Observer Program with the National Weather Service — Quad Cities, said this January is making the record books.
Byrne said he has recorded the monthly snowfall in the area so far at 18.1 inches, which just beats the record of 18 inches set in January 2014.
Schools across the Illinois Valley, including those in Putnam County, closed because of the hazardous conditions, and many have used their allotted snow days for the year. Further closures will have to be approved by the Regional Office of Education.
Schools weren’t the only places closing their doors. Several announcements were made throughout the week by area stores, restaurants and public buildings, including the Putnam County Courthouse and the Putnam County libraries, which kept their employees home during the worst of the weather.
Garbage companies pushed back their routes for the week, and the U.S. Postal Service suspended mail deliveries for the safety of their letter carriers. The Putnam County Community Center, along with the Bureau Putnam Rural Area Transit (BPART), also put out notices letting people know they would be closed.
“We’ve done very well, it’s kind of amazing. I feel very fortunate that we’ve had no 911 calls or cold-related emergencies,” Andy Jackson, Director of Putnam County Emergency Medical Services,, said of the recent deep freeze.
Putnam County Sheriff Kevin Doyle said the sheriff’s office fared well and had few equipment issues.
“There were some generators that didn’t start on test operations, but we quickly got them running,” he said.
Deputies did have a few cold-related calls. One was to a house with furnace problems that had caused the indoor temperature to drop to 32 degrees. Doyle said the sheriff’s office helped get a contractor there to provide assistance.
“We’ve been very, very busy. There’s been a lot of ‘No heat,’ calls and several broken water lines,” Heather Davis, dispatcher for Grasser’s Plumbing and Heating, of McNabb, said.
Local ethanol manufacturer Marquis Energy was asked if the polar temperatures had any effect on their production capabilities
“During the extreme cold temperatures, we take extra precaution with the safety of our staff, but we continue to run at a full production rate of over a million gallons of ethanol per day,” Danielle Anderson, of Marquis reported.
The commercial greenhouse Color Point, of Granville, was also asked how the glacial weather was impacting their operations and delicate products, but had yet to respond as of press time.
Following the extreme cold, temperatures rose almost as dramatically as they had previously fallen. Daytime temperatures during the following weekend rose well into the 40s and also brought some rain and fog. While the surprising warmth diminished much of the snowfall, nighttime temperatures dropped back below freezing and kept icy roads a concern for snowplow drivers who worked to keep roads safe for local motorists.
As county residents emerge from bone-chilling cold amid the early days of February, keep in mind the first day of spring is only a little more than six weeks away.