By MATT HOPF
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
With 19 days to the first official day of spring, the region is slated to get a good reminder that it is still winter with a weekend snow storm that could dump more than 8 inches across the region.
The National Weather Service says snow should move into the area Saturday night and continue through Sunday with wind gusts of up to 20 mph from the north.
The snow is predicted to hit the state's midsection the hardest, where communities have already endured a winter for the record books. Bloomington has received 46.7 inches of snow this year, eclipsing the 41.1 inches the city received during the same period in 1961-62. Springfield has tallied 42.3 inches, second only to the 52.1 inches that fell in 1977-78.
At Quincy Central Services, equipment is ready to hit the streets, but rock salt will be at a premium, as the city has expended most of its supply this winter.
Marty Stegeman, director of Central Services, said crews will mix cinders and sand with rock salt to help stretch the supply.
"Salt is going to be an issue," he said. "We have enough to get through, but we're going to be mixing it."
The city crews will run 12-hour shifts with 12 trucks, and will consider adding more depending on how much snow falls. Crews will work to keep streets passable during the snowstorm and have the streets plowed curb-to-curb and salted as needed within 12 hours after the storm passes.
In anticipation of the storm, the city is asking residents not to park on snow emergency routes starting at 5 p.m. Saturday until noon on Monday.
A decision on whether to declare a snow emergency will be made on Saturday or Sunday. If a snow emergency is declared, it applies to the designated snow routes marked with blue signs. Vehicles must be moved off the routes, and those not moved are subject to being ticketed and possibly towed once there is 3 inches of snow.
The Illinois Department of Transportation announced Friday that its crews and equipment are standing by for deployment.
Across the river, John Hark, director of the Hannibal-Marion County Emergency Management Agency, said officials are ready to respond to an 8-inch snow, and will readjust if more falls.
"We sent a message out yesterday to fire, police, ambulance, sheriff's department -- all of our department heads -- that this is where we're at," he said. "Right now we are at a wait and see."
Hark encourages residents to stay in during the storm.
"If we get 6, 8, 10, 12 inches of snow, driving is going to become a total hazardous condition," he said. "Stay out of the way of the people that have to go -- first responders, fire, police, ambulance, snow plows. They're the ones that have to be out there. Give them room."
Stegeman asks motorists to keep a safe distance from the city plows.
"They're definitely a little bit more difficult to stop and start," he said. "Also if you're pulling out in front of a plow, be aware that they can't react like a normal vehicle."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.