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SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Department of Transportation is warning the public that a major winter storm with the potential for double-digit snowfall totals in the central and southern regions of the state will begin late this afternoon and extend into Saturday, impacting travel heading into the weekend.

To prepare for the snowfall, IDOT reported in a press release that its crews have been pretreating roads and bridges susceptible to icing, with plowing operations likely to begin later Friday and continue through the weekend.

“Before you head out into the storm, please ask yourself if this trip is necessary,” said IDOT Deputy Secretary Omer Osman in a press release. “We are working hard to keep roads safe, but conditions will be challenging. If you do venture out, be prepared for increased travel times.”

The National Weather Service is predicting snow to begin falling in the eastern part of the state later today between 4 and 6 p.m. The primary area impacted is from the St. Louis Metro East north to Quincy and east to Effingham. Up to 8 inches of snowfall is expected during the overnight hours, with additional accumulation Saturday of 4-5 inches.

Cameron Craig, climatologist with the Eastern Illinois University weather center, reported this morning on his Facebook page that his new analysis of this weekend’s winter storm is that the low pressure is tracking east with shift northward. He said this is more north than Thursday night's analysis.

Therefore, Craig said new snow totals will be 6-8 inches in the Charleston and Mattoon area east to Indianapolis, 5-7 inches in the Champaign and Peoria area, and up to 10 inches in the St. Louis region. He said the heaviest snowfall will be along and south of Interstate 72.

Craig said the timing for the snowfall will be 3-6 p.m. in the St Louis region, 6-9 p.m. in Charleston and Mattoon, 9 p.m.-midnight in the Champaign and Peoria area, and early morning hours for Indiana.

The climatologist said the snowfall will last through Saturday late evening for Illinois and early morning Sunday for Indiana. He said the winter storm warning will be in effect at 6 tonight through 6 a.m. Sunday for Illinois. He said the winter storm warning will be in effect midnight tonight through 7 a.m. Sunday for Indiana.

"Travel is highly discouraged," Craig said.

IDOT has advised motorists to avoid driving during the storm if possible. The heavier the traffic, the more challenging it is for snow plows to clear roads. Drivers who encounter a plow during their travels are asked to slow down, increase their driving distance, and remain patient.

Some of IDOT's other tips for those who have to travel include:

  • Take it slow, especially when approaching intersections, ramps, bridges and shady areas. All are prone to black ice, an invisible danger during some winter storms.
  • Make sure your gas tank is full.
  • Keep a cellphone, warm clothes, blankets, food, water, a first-aid kit, washer fluid and an ice scraper in your vehicle.
  • Check the forecast and make sure someone is aware of your travel route and schedule.
  • Carry a cellphone in case of emergency. Reminder: Using handheld phones while driving is illegal in Illinois, unless it is an emergency situation.
  • Always wear a seat belt, whether you’re sitting in the front seat or back seat. It’s the law.

Illinois State Police Director Leo Schmitz said in the press release that if motorists must drive during hazardous winter weather conditions, they should ensure that they practice safe driving habits.

“In order to prevent accidents from occurring, we want to remind all drivers to allow extra travel time to get to your destination, avoid unnecessary lane changes, reduce your speed, and increase your following distance on snow or ice-covered roadways," Schmitz said. "Also, please remember, if you approach an emergency vehicle, or any vehicle with their hazard lights activated, please give them distance and move over.”

For regular updates on statewide road conditions, visit GettingAroundIllinois.com or follow IDOT on Facebook and Twitter.

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Contact Rob Stroud at (217) 238-6861. Follow him on Twitter: @TheRobStroud

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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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