DECATUR — Central Illinois residents should beware of "dangerously frigid temperatures" through the middle of next week, meteorologists at the National Weather Service warned Friday.
From today to Wednesday, wind chills are expected to drop between 15 to 25 degrees below zero, according to a hazardous weather outlook issued by the weather service at Lincoln. Highs will be in the single digits, and are expected to return to the teens come Monday.
"You don't really want to be outside for this," said meteorologist Scott Baker.
The hazardous weather outlook affects several counties, including Macon, Coles, DeWitt, Shelby and Logan.
There aren't any chances for more snow to accumulate in the coming days, Baker said, but he said that the cold temperatures probably won't show any signs of letting up until mid-January. An outlook spanning Jan. 13-26 shows a 55 to 60 percent chance of above average temperatures, he said.
As for road conditions, Baker said roadways around the Decatur area, and from Interstate 72 throughout Macon County look to be clear of snow and ice.
"We will work until the primary roads are cleared off, and as long as the need is there," said Daniel Mendenall, municipal services manager for the city of Decatur. "We'll be out there night or day."
Mendenall said 15 trucks were sent out Friday afternoon to clear off snow from the roads and spread salt and calcium chloride to melt it. The trucks worked to clear the main roads first, he said, and then made their way into residential areas.
Decatur police Lt. Shannon Seal said officers only responded to one accident with an injury on Friday. One of the people involved in the collision was taken to a local hospital to be treated for injuries that weren't considered to be life-threatening, she said. Seal could not provide further details.
"Luckily, today we haven't had any more accidents than a usual Friday," she said. "The road crews have done a good job."
The Macon County Sheriff's Office responded to "four or five" slide-off accidents Friday afternoon, but none of them resulted in injuries or serious property damage, Lt. Jamie Belcher said.
As the deep freeze continues, Mendenall said motorists and pedestrians should be careful for ice underneath the snow. Frigid temperatures within the past week have not melted ice and snow from last weekend's snowfall, he said.
"There's not a whole lot that salt can do for the ice when it's 5 to 10 degrees outside," he said. "If we see some sunlight, and if we get some warmer temps, we can melt this away in no time."
Until those warmer temps come, Baker advises against any attempts to brave the elements. "Stay inside," he said. "And that goes for humans and animals. They shouldn't be outside for very long periods at all."
Oasis Day Center Director Jeff Mueller said the homeless shelter, which also serves as a warming center during the cold winter months, has seen more people in need of help. The deep freeze means people also spend more time at the center throughout the day.
Whereas the center might help about 150 people on a normal day, Mueller said that number has trended closer to 200 recently. The center is open seven days a week, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
"We are really trying to be a resource center for them. With them here longer, we have a chance to hit them up one on one," Mueller said. "Our goal is to link them up with appropriate resources in the community.
"Fortunately, all of our folks have been able to find a temporary shelter of some sort, whether with friends or an overnight shelter at night."