By RICK HAYES firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — MT. VERNON — Road conditions have improved considerable in the Jefferson County region, following a winter storm on Friday that resulted unofficially in about a foot of snow in Mt. Vernon.
According to Register-News weather reporter Virginia Moorhous, the city had eight inches of snow overnight Thursday, and another three inches on Friday, resulting in the 12-inch 48-hour total. There was no precipitation on Saturday, but cold temperatures allowed for little melting on the city and county's main roadways. There were some reports of a light freezing rain overnight Sunday.
Temperatures warmed up into the high 20's on Monday, and the warming trend is expected to continue through Wednesday. Temperatures are expected to go back down into the high 20's on Thursday as a cold front approaches, but back up into the mid- to upper-30's by Friday.
The National Weather Service predicted the Mt. Vernon area would get another one-inch of snowfall on Monday night.
"We're finally doing some good. The last couple of hours the snow has begun to peel off the road," said Matt Fauss, Mt. Vernon's Public Works director, around noon on Monday. "We'll work a couple of extra hours tonight while the weather is cooperating."
He added, "We've still got some roads in bad shape, but the next four or five hours we should be looking pretty good, except maybe some remote side roads."
Both the city and the county experienced various mechanical problems with its equipment during the weekend.
"We started off with seven trucks, got down to three, and now we're up to four," Fauss said, noting there were various kinds of mechanical breakdowns.
"We had two trucks off the road at the same time on Friday night, and we've had a truck in here (maintenance garage) almost all the time since the storm began," said Brandon Simmons, Jefferson County Highway Department engineer.
"All in all, we've probably had four trucks off into a ditch at some point during the whole storm," he added.
Simmons said the county has used about 300 to 400 tons of salt in combatting poor road conditions, but still has about 90 percent capacity at its salt bin.
"We only have one crew, and they quit Friday night because they started out at 3 a.m. We gave them a little break and they were back out on Saturday finishing up some of the places we didn't get to on Friday," Simmons said. "I think we're in pretty good shape. We're expecting a little bit tonight, but I don't think it will hurt anything."
The Illinois Department of Transportation is reporting Interstate 57 and 64 in Jefferson County as having scattered slippery spots. Other interstates in Southern Illinois are reported mostly clear of ice and snow, with some scattered slippery spots.
Secondary roads in main municipalities and rural roads across most of the region are still ice and snow covered and considered hazardous.
City and county police officers were busy throughout the weekend answering calls for fender benders and vehicles off in ditches. Fortunately, there have been no serious accidents in the Jefferson County area since the sleet began on Thursday and turned to snow later in the day and continued through the evening and daytime hours Friday.
Schools in Jefferson County were not in session on Monday, although classes were in session at Rend Lake College. The Christmas parade in Mt. Vernon was canceled on Saturday evening. Officials have not announced if it will be rescheduled.