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Mattoon Post Office

A person walks out of the Mattoon Post Office into the frigid air on Wednesday afternoon. 

There's never been a colder Jan. 30 in Coles County than Wednesday was, but a change in temperature is coming.

Polar vortex weather conditions prompted school closings throughout Coles County on Wednesday and caused an overnight low temperature that tied an 83-year-old record for the date. However, there will be an upswing of about 60 degrees in a few days, said Cameron Craig, climatologist with the Eastern Illinois University weather center.

And though the month is coming to an end, winter is not, so there's a chance to see the same kinds of conditions return before it's all over, Craig noted.

"It's definitely a roller coaster situation," Craig said. "And January is just the middle of it."

Record-tying cold

The low temperature early Wednesday fell to 12 degrees below zero, Craig said, tying the record low for the date from 1936.

Wind chills worsened conditions on a day when temperatures had not reached zero by the end of the morning, he also said. All that was for a day that has an average high temperature of 30 degrees and an average low of 20, he added.

The outlook is a bit uncertain for Thursday but the daytime high temperature will likely still be somewhere around the mid-teens, Craig said. After that, look for a warming trend with highs in the 50s on Sunday and Monday.

The big change is because the cold air that hit the area from the north will move out and allow warm air in to take its place, Craig explained.

School cancellations

The frigid winter weather led to the Mattoon, Charleston and Oakland school districts; Eastern Illinois University; and Lake Land College canceling classes on Wednesday.

By Wednesday afternoon, the Mattoon, Charleston and Oakland districts announced that classes will remain closed on Thursday due to inclement weather. The Charleston district, in particular, cited "forecasted extreme temperatures and continued wind chill warning" as the reasons for its closure.

The City of Mattoon issued a reminder Wednesday morning that when temperatures drop below 10 degrees, residents should keep their water running a little even when they have gone to work or are asleep. The running water helps keep the water meter from freezing.

Childcare plans change

Crystal Alwardt, owner of Cee Cee'z Imagination Station Preschool & Child Care Center in Mattoon, said she and her staff fielded calls from several of their students' parents on Tuesday asking if the center would be open during the cold snap the following day.

"We made the decision to be open to help our families," Alwardt said while on the job Wednesday.

Alwardt said some of her younger students stayed home with their older siblings on Wednesday, but the center saw an increase of school-age students staying there throughout the day instead of just before and after school. She said the school-age students, mostly in kindergarten and first grade, enjoyed being role models for the day for the younger children.

Alex and Erika Swango of Mattoon said they were able to be home with their children, 4-year-old Connor and 2-year-old Caleb, on Wednesday, so they took the opportunity to go to the Mattoon Area Family YMCA. The couple attended a spin cycle class while their children hung out with the YMCA's Child Watch program.

"They are the best. They take great care of the kids," Alex Swango said.

Warming centers

Angie Patrick, membership engagement director for the Mattoon YMCA, said some YMCA locations in the region closed on Wednesday, but the Mattoon Y remained open because it wanted to be there for people who needed a warm place to go.

Patrick said the YMCA's fitness classes were in session on Wednesday, its pickleball group played during the day, and many teenage students turned out to play basketball in the gymnasium.

The Mattoon Public Library gave notice on Wednesday on Facebook that it was open for those looking for a place to stay warm or find a good book on a chilly day. Library Director Carl Walworth said the library also planned to be open on Thursday.

"We have had some people stop in who needed a place to warm up. Some people brought their kids in. This is a good place to hang out," Walworth said, adding that the library has Lego blocks, a train set, coloring pages, and other activities available for children.

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Dave Fopay is a reporter for the JG-TC who covers Coles County, the local court system, Charleston schools and more.


Rob Stroud is a reporter for the JG-TC, covering the city of Mattoon, Lake Land College, Cumberland County and areas including Oakland, Casey and Martinsville.

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