EFFINGHAM — Nearly a foot of snow and white-out conditions halted interstate and area traffic Sunday, leaving many vehicles stranded.
"We're swamped," said Fayette County Sheriff Aaron Lay. "The cars aren't even in the ditch, they're in the middle of the road."
Lay said while the interstate has been mostly cleared, county and township roads are still covered in snow and with the sun, much of that snow is turning into slick, hidden ice.
"With the highways, they're snowpacked and covered," he said. "With the county roads, the highway department just couldn't keep up and split. I can only go so far. We had people out from 6 p.m. yesterday to 6 a.m."
Tim Ervin, a foreman with the Jasper County Highway Department, said the county is attempting to open all of the roads, which were closed Sunday evening. He said he expects most of the roads to be opened again by the early afternoon.
"We're trying to open everything up again," he said. "If people are going to go out now, that's just going to make things more dangerous for our people."
That danger has already affected several semi drivers throughout the area. A spokesman for Zone 7 of the Illinois Department of Transportation said the department is still receiving reports of abandoned semis on the interstate including one blocking between Casey and Marshall and another on Interstate 57 at milepost 175.
"We've also got jack-knifed semis on the interstate," he said. "We're just trying to get the roads opened up. That's the main thing, just to keep people moving."
Many drivers have had to stop in order to stay safe. At Pilot Travel Center in Effingham, nearly 200 drivers have stopped, with long lines to get fuel and wait until road conditions improve.
"I’ve been following this storm all the way through," said Don Hall, who has been driving from Denver, with a delivery scheduled in North Hampton, N.J., Tuesday. "It has gotten progressively worse conditions as it came east. Yesterday in Missouri, there was a lot of snow and blowing. The sun came up and turned into pure ice out there."
Hall said he saw quite a few other drivers who were unabe to keep trucks on the road, as heavy, compacted ice makes it very easy for a truck to jack-knife when braking and difficult to gain any traction when accelerating.
"There's a ton of them that didn't make it and are in the ditch now," he said.
Hall said he and many other drivers are waiting for improvements as Indiana called for a state of emergency and aren't allowing drivers in to continue their routes. Despite being slowed down, Hall said this is a part of the job many drivers simply have gotten used to.
"It’s something I’m kind of used to out there," he said. "It’s not pleasant but it’s something you have to get used to that Mother Nature kind of controls things and you do what you can do and have to figure out what your limits are."