The storm that coated most of Illinois with deep snow, thick ice or both had moved on Thursday, but cities and towns across the state continued to deal with a long list of problems it left behind.
There were still mounds of snow and tree limbs knocked down by freezing rain, and the troubles were further complicated by single-digit temperatures and wind chills even lower that forecasters said could linger into the weekend.
Outside Lovington in east-central Illinois, school superintendent Roy Smith sat at home again. His schools were among the many in small towns closed three consecutive days because of icy roads.
The parents of most of his 250 students would rely on neighbors in the small town for child care, he said. But there’s no guarantee the 41 kids who typically eat reduced-price meals at school were getting much at home.
“It’s a question that needs to be asked of every parent, are they making sure their child is taken care of,” Smith said. “If you asked me if I knew if every child is taken care of today, I don’t know.”
Some districts, Lovington among them, signaled school could be out Friday, too. That could keep students in school with makeup days at the end of the school year.
Chicago city officials started to plow many of the city’s side streets Thursday, a day after they cleared main roads following the massive winter storm that dumped 20 inches on parts of the city, grounded virtually all flights, led to two rare snow days and stranded hundreds of motorists on Lake Shore Drive.
Mackie Berman, 32, and two helpful friends spent hours digging her car out from a nearly shoulder-high snow bank on Chicago’s West Side. She had freed it the day before, but snow plows clearing the road blocked her back in.
“We’re very close,” she said as she cleared away shovelfuls of the dirty wet snow.
Temperatures around most of the state reached only the mid-teens Thursday and were expected to stay there until a weekend warm up to the low to mid 30s, National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Geelhart said. Light snow was possible in many areas Friday night and again Sunday, but the conditions wouldn’t touch those of the blizzard that his much of the nation this week, he said.
Airports in Decatur, Champaign and Peoria were open, with just a few canceled flights in Peoria. Flights at O’Hare International and Midway International airports in Chicago resumed, though operations were far from normal.
And Veterans Affairs clinics in central Illinois cities such as Decatur, Mattoon, Peoria and Springfield reopened and were seeing patients after closing Wednesday, said Douglas Shouse, spokesman for the agency’s Danville hospital.
In southwestern Illinois’ Coulterville, cleanup was in full swing from ice up to an inch thick that caked the 1,300-resident village and surrounding towns.
“If you drive down the main street, trees are down all over the place,” Holly Perry said while managing the Pistol Pete Restaurant. “Some trees are uprooted. My boss has a gigantic pine tree, now laying sideways.”
Already popular among locals, Pistol City proved in even hotter demand Tuesday night when residents suddenly left in the dark by the storm turned to the eatery and its built-in bar for shelter, hoping to wait out outages that Perry figures left half the town in the dark.
For the restaurant, there was a silver lining: extra business Wednesday and Thursday at the all-you-can-eat, $4.99 breakfast buffet from 60 or so workers from utility Ameren and dozens of tree trimmers.
By late Thursday afternoon Ameren said it only had about 650 customers still without power, down from 41,000 at the peak of the storm. Smaller rural providers, such as the one that serves Smith in Lovington, still had scattered outages around the state.
Virtually all the 190,000 ComEd customers in northern Illinois who lost power during the storm had electricity back by Thursday afternoon, ComEd spokeswoman Alicia Zatkowski said.
Power loss was never the problem for most in the western Illinois town of Macomb. The week’s deluge was almost pure snow, with totals around 20 inches.
The town square was covered in deep drifts, public works director Walter Burnett said, leading officials to barricade off the area Wednesday and start hauling the snow away, one dump truck load at a time. By noon Thursday, the area reopened and the city’s streets were mostly clear of what proved to be an impressive load of snow, he said.
“I sat down and figured how much we moved off the streets and it came up to around 23 million cubic feet,” Burnett said.