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Local, county, state governments prepare for winter storm (free content)

The storm forecast to hit the area tonight, tomorrow and Thursday has officials at all levels of government preparing for serious disruption.

The latest forecast by the National Weather Service indicates snowfall for our area could range from 9 to 16 inches over the next two days.

Schools in all three Homewood and Flossmoor districts will be closed Wednesday. Flossmoor village hall will be closed. The COVID-19 testing facility at South Suburban College will be closed Wednesday and Thursday. Homewood officials already announced village hall would be closed until Feb. 7 due to COVID-19 concerns.

On Tuesday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a disaster declaration for the entire state in anticipation of the problems the storm will create.

In Flossmoor, village hall staff will be on duty Wednesday but will be working remotely. Officials suggest residents with questions or concerns about snow removal or other storm related issues contact the Public Works directly at 708-957-4100. Contact the Flossmoor Police Department non-emergency line at (708) 957-4500 with after hours snow related issues.

Village hall staff will return to the office at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday.

Police and fire emergency crews and on-call Public Works services will be available to those in need. In the case of an emergency, call 911.

In addition to declaring a disaster, Pritzker activated about 130 members of the Illinois National Guard to ensure all state resources are available to deal with the storm.

IEMA’s State Emergency Operations Center in Springfield will be activated to coordinate the state’s response to the storm. Representatives from relevant state agencies will staff the SEOC 24 hours a day throughout the storm and quickly deploy resources to impacted communities.

IDOT officials urged motorists who encounter plows to slow down, increase distance and remain patient. They cautioned against passing plows because conditions in front of the plow will be worse than behind it. Non-essential travel is strongly discouraged.

If travel is absolutely necessary, Illinoisans should:
• Drastically reduce speeds and take it slow, especially when approaching intersections, ramps, bridges and shaded areas that are prone to icing.
• Make sure your gas tank is full.
• Keep a cell phone, warm clothes, blankets, food, water, a first-aid kit, washer fluid and an ice scraper in your vehicle. Dial *999 in the Chicago area for assistance in case of emergency.
• Check the forecast and make sure someone is aware of your route and schedule.
• Reminder: Using handheld phones while driving is illegal in Illinois, unless it is an emergency.
• If you are involved in a crash or break down, remain inside your vehicle, which is your safest form of shelter. Exiting your vehicle into live traffic can have fatal consequences.
• Always wear a seat belt, whether you’re sitting in the front seat or back seat. It’s the law. Never get behind the wheel impaired.

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.

Cook County Department of Transportation and Highways also issued an alert to residents, urging everyone to keep an emergency kit in each car when driving during winter weather.

A basic safety kit should include the following items:
• Shovel
• Windshield scraper and small broom
• Flashlight with extra batteries
• Battery powered radio
• Water
• Snack food, including energy bars
• Matches and small candles
• Extra hats, socks and mittens
• First aid kit with pocketknife
• Necessary medications
• Blankets or sleeping bag
• Tow chain or rope
• Road salt, sand or cat litter for traction
• Jumper cables
• Emergency flares and reflectors
• Fluorescent distress flag and whistle to attract attention
• Cell phone adapter to plug into lighter

Local officials also remind residents who are clearing snow to take a few minutes to dig out nearby fire hydrants. In case of emergency, the time it takes for firefighters to find and clear hydrants can have serious consequences.

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