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Pritzker issues disaster declaration ahead of winter storm

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a disaster declaration Tuesday and activated about 130...
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a disaster declaration Tuesday and activated about 130 members of the Illinois National Guard to ensure all state resources are available to deal with the heavy snow, ice and blizzard conditions expected over the coming days.(Mike Miletich)
Published: Feb. 1, 2022 at 2:49 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WGEM) - In advance of the anticipated severe winter storm expected to hit the entire state, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a disaster declaration Tuesday and activated about 130 members of the Illinois National Guard to ensure all state resources are available to deal with the heavy snow, ice and blizzard conditions expected over the coming days.

Pritzker says his administration will provide resources to help everyone in the path of the storm. He also strongly encouraged people to stay off the roads. The governor says all state assets stand ready to assist, including the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.

The IEMA Emergency Operations Center is already preparing to have representatives from state agencies available to answer calls 24 hours a day. That team will help deploy resources and response teams to some of the communities hardest hit by this storm.

“That includes coordinating with utility companies to ensure that power is restored quickly should any parts of the state lose electricity in the storms,” Pritzker said at the IEMA headquarters in Springfield.

State officials said people should make sure they have food, water, and weather radios before the storm. The Illinois Department of Transportation will also deploy 1,800 trucks and other equipment to help plow roads and respond to accidents alongside law enforcement.

The governor is activating about 130 members of the Illinois National Guard to support winter weather operations in central Illinois. The soldiers and airmen will be assigned as winter weather platoons with each platoon consisting of about 18 soldiers equipped with six High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV) and one Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck Wrecker. The airmen, from the 182nd Airlift Wing in Peoria, will also be equipped with six HMMWVs.

“While most people will be watching this week’s weather event unfold from the comfort of their home, the Illinois National Guard will be braving the cold weather and snow alongside local and state first responders as they assist to protect life and property, and alleviate suffering in the communities where they will be assigned,” said Maj. Gen. Rich Neely, the adjutant general of Illinois and commander of the Illinois National Guard.

The Illinois National Guard will serve as a critical force multiplier for the ISP, who will be deploying teams of troopers to assist stranded motorists across the state. Guard units will initially be deployed to ISP Districts 9 - Springfield, 10 - Pesotum, 18 - Litchfield, 20 - Pittsfield and 21 – Ashkum, helping reduce response times and capacity to reach motorists. From the SEOC, ISP will be monitoring conditions on the ground and shifting personnel based on the trajectory of the storm.

Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly stressed people need to obey Scott’s Law and move over whenever they see emergency vehicles on the road. Kelly and other officials said people must slow down, increase driving distance and remain patient if they decide to drive. Because of the storm’s potential, non-essential travel is strongly discouraged.

Pritzker joined the chorus of leaders explaining they need the public’s cooperation during the storm. Several state officials explained people should have at least half a tank of gas in case you end up in a crash and need to keep your vehicle running with the heat on.

Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman said people should also expect sustained high winds after the snow stops falling later this week. Osman stressed that could cause blizzard-like conditions with little to no visibility for drivers.

“Severe cold later in the week will reduce effectiveness of the material used to treat the roads,” Osman said. “While roads might appear to be fine when you start your trip, they can change quickly during your travel.”

For regular updates on statewide road conditions, visit www.gettingaroundillinois.com. For additional information about winter storm preparedness measures and important updates throughout the storm, visit the Ready Illinois website at https://www2.illinois.gov/ready/Pages/default2.aspx.

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