SPRINGFIELD — With a massive winter storm expected to blanket the entire state in ice and snow, Governor JB Pritzker issued a disaster declaration on Tuesday and activated members of the Illinois National Guard.
He also announced that his regular state of the state and budget address would continue as scheduled at noon Wednesday, only at a new venue — the Old State Capitol in Springfield. It was previously scheduled for House chambers at the current Capitol, but both chambers canceled the session this week due to the impending winter storm.
This storm is expected to dump 6 to 20 inches of snow across central Illinois, creating whiteout conditions, icy roads and life-threatening travel conditions.
“Due to the intensity and amount of snow expected, travel will be hazardous and strongly discouraged,” Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Omer Osman said Tuesday at a press conference in Springfield. at the headquarters of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.
Osman said IDOT crews will all be on deck, with more than 1,800 plows and winter response trucks patrolling the roads. Drivers must not overtake plows and must slow down and move when they see emergency vehicles on the road — a state law that applies regardless of weather conditions but is especially important in the snow, he said.
Even when the snow stops falling, high winds could create blizzard-like conditions, he said. Drivers should significantly reduce their speed and visit gettingaroundillinois.com to check for the latest road conditions.
By law, the governor must submit his budget to the General Assembly on the first Wednesday of February this year. Last year, the governor pre-recorded his budget speech before the deadline due to the COVID-19 pandemic and broadcast it live across the state.
This year, amid a downturn from the latest COVID-19 surge, the governor had planned to deliver his message to the House chamber. But wintry weather and a session cancellation led the governor to move to the Old State Capitol.
“We want to make sure the message gets out to people,” Pritzker said when asked why he didn’t cancel the speech, noting that the budget delivery was mandated by law. “We deliver the budget and it’s a very official act, the delivery of the budget to the legislature. We want to make sure they have every opportunity and I think the budget address should be given at the same time as the budget is presented.
The governor said his disaster declaration applies statewide and was issued to ensure all resources are available for snow removal and search and rescue missions for stranded motorists.
Pritzker has activated 130 members of the National Guard who will be assigned as “winter platoons” made up of approximately 18 soldiers equipped with high-mobility multi-purpose wheeled vehicles, or Humvees, and a tactical mobility truck wrecker. heavy stretch.
They will help Illinois State Police provide support to stranded motorists.
But Illinois should avoid the roads whenever possible, ISP Director Brendan Kelly said. Anyone who needs to travel should keep their gas tank at least half full, dress in warm layers, fully charge their phone, and make sure a loved one is aware of a planned travel route.
Kelly advised Illinois to travel with an emergency car maintenance kit with jumper cables, flares or reflectors, windshield washer fluid, an ice scraper, traction materials, blankets, non-perishable food and a first aid kit.
Those who go off the road should stay in their cars with their seatbelts fastened, he said, because whatever caused the skid is likely to affect other vehicles.
“If you don’t have to go out in this weather, stay home,” he said. “This will free up state resources to handle emergency calls and we are going to receive those emergency calls. Our number one mission during this storm will be to respond to motorists in need of assistance. The safety of the public and our officers will be a top priority.