Cold spell lingers in the Fox Valley
By Stephanie Lulay firstname.lastname@example.org January 7, 2014 6:54PM
Laurie Jones buys a train ticket at Aurora train station out in the bitter cold on Monday, Jan. 6, 2014. | Mike Mantucca / For Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 9, 2014 6:21AM
A second day of sub-zero temperatures led to car crashes for some and saw others seeking a reprieve from the cold Tuesday.
Aurora police responded to about 40 crashes between 6 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, all resulting in minor injuries, according to Aurora spokesman Dan Ferrelli. Aurora police officers also assisted 20 other drivers who slid off roads.
The city is encouraging motorists to slow down and allow extra time to get to their destinations as many roads are still snow packed and slippery due to the extreme cold.
“Slowing down, driving defensively and making sure that all windows are clear of ice and snow before setting out all go a long way in reducing crashes and slide-offs,” Ferrelli said.
Aurora crews began using road salt again at some intersections Tuesday, according to Ferrelli. Intersections that are controlled by traffic lights or stop signs on primary routes were the first to be salted, he said.
“We will monitor these locations to make sure that any melting does not refreeze before we expand the salting to controlled intersections in residential areas,” Ferrelli said.
All snow routes were plowed by 7:30 a.m. Monday, but crews continued clearing operations because of high winds and drifting snow.
About four people used the Aurora Transportation Center as a warming center Monday when temperatures hovered near 15 below zero. Two people stayed overnight at the station, Ferrelli said, and about a dozen people have used the ATC as a warming center since it opened.
This is the first time the Aurora Transportation Center has been used as a 24-hour warming center. After meeting with city and social service leaders, Mayor Tom Weisner directed the center to be opened on a temporary, emergency basis “where those in need of a warm place to stay for whatever reason would be able to come to a safe environment,” Ferrelli said.
The Aurora Transportation Center is normally open from 5 a.m to 10 p.m. In order for the center to be open 24 hours, an Aurora police officer was assigned to the location and city officials worked to adjust schedules of two employees who normally work at the facility.
The city furnished cots, blankets, bottled water and snacks to those in need, according to Ferrelli. An exact count of people served was challenging to tabulate because of the ongoing Metra train delays and cancellations, he said.
Despite extreme weather and a sick staff, things were running “pretty well” at Hesed House late Tuesday, which doubled as a warming center, said Hesed House Executive Director Michael Cobb.
“Even with sickness running through our staff team, everyone is pitching in to make a tough situation much more bearable for all,” Cobb said.
As the city experienced the coldest temperatures Monday and Tuesday, the homeless shelter welcomed about 90 to 100 guests during the daytime, which is above the 70 to 80 people Hesed House normally serves during the day, Cobb said.
The emergency overnight shelter housed about 135 people each night Monday and Tuesday, lower than the shelter’s average 180 patrons typical during the winter months. Overnight patrons included a guest Hesed House hadn’t served in six months, Cobb said.
“When extreme cold like this hits, some (emergency shelter) guests who normally cannot stay with family and friends are able to seek out their family and friends (again) and get temporary reprieve through extreme cold weather,” Cobb said.
All three Aurora Public library locations, which also doubled as warming centers, saw little activity Monday as arctic temperatures swept through the city.
Aurora Public Library spokesperson Amy Roth said that about 10 people used the library’s main branch as a warming center. At the library’s West and Eola branches, library managers reported zero patrons using the library primarily as a source of warmth.
As 22,000 Far East Side customers experienced a power outage Monday afternoon, so did the Aurora Public Library’s Eola branch. The power at the library at 555 S. Eola Road went out at 12:45 p.m. and most patrons left on their own, Roth said. By 1:30 p.m. Monday, temperatures began to drop significantly in the building, and library staff made the call to close the facility. The Eola branch remained closed the rest of the day.
Roth said the Aurora Public Library locations were operating with fewer staff members than normal out of concern for the safety of employees.
“We kind of had a skeleton staff,” she said.
The Route 59 Transportation Center also experienced a one-hour power outage Monday afternoon, Ferrelli said.
No serious issues related to the cold were reported to the Aurora Housing Authority, AHA Executive Director Keith Gregory said Tuesday.
Gregory said AHA maintenance staff spent a “great amount of time” preparing heating systems at AHA properties for the cold spell.
“We maintain a 24-hour emergency maintenance line so that our residents have immediate access to service in the event of a heating emergency during winter months,” Gregory said. “Even if (AHA) techs can’t get there in a short period of time, we work with a lot of contractors, as well.”
Housing Authority offices were closed Monday but open Tuesday.
Aurora crews responded to a water main break on the city’s East Side Monday afternoon, the second since extreme cold temperatures swept into the area.
At about 3:30 p.m. Monday, crews responded to a main break in the 1100 block of Lebanon Street. Aurora crews tackled another water main break in the 1700 block of Roanoke Avenue on the city’s West Side earlier Monday.
Access to businesses on Sugar Lane in Sugar Grove was limited Tuesday because of a nearby water main break.
Ice formed on the roadway, making it difficult to reach Fireside Restaurant and other businesses, said Cindy Galbreath, Sugar Grove village clerk. The businesses could be accessed from Main Street, she said.
Air and water temperature are main factors in why water mains break with greater frequency in the winter months.
After two days of school closures, Fox Valley school districts are gearing up for students and staff to return Wednesday, when highs are expected to creep back up into the teens.
The cold weather picked a good time to come for the many districts that ended their semesters prior to winter break, which meant little disruption to student schedules.
West Aurora spokesman Mike Chapin said custodians reported to work Tuesday afternoon to work on clearing the snow. There were no reported issues at buildings as of midday Tuesday, Chapin said.
The two missed days will be added to the end of West Aurora’s school year. Students already took their finals prior to winter break.
At East Aurora, the two missed days also will be tacked on to the end of the year. Finals were not scheduled until next week, so students will not have to worry about missed tests Wednesday.
The high school’s “advise and sign day,” when students set their schedules for next year, has been moved to Friday.
One East Aurora building experienced boiler problems, but it has been repaired.
At Oswego 308, parking lots and sidewalks have been cleared and buses have been cleaned up and tested to make sure they are functioning properly, according to district spokesman Brian Graves. No issues have been reported at any district buildings.
“We are ready for school as usual,” Graves said.
Students took their finals before winter break because of the new school calendar, Graves said, and they will start a new semester Wednesday. The one missed day for students will be added to the end of the school year.
Superintendent Matthew Wendt’s state of the district address will be rescheduled, likely for next week.