By Bill Grimes Daily News
Effingham Daily News
---- — While the Effingham area was pounded by up to 8 inches of snow during Sunday's fierce storm, the Illinois State climatologist says the late-season snowstorms are nothing new to the region.
"Sunday's storm was something we hadn't seen in a while," said Jim Angel, whose office is at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. "But if you look back at history, March snowstorms were not uncommon.
"It's a bit unusual in recent times, but it has happened in the past," Angel added.
Angel said March 1906 was known in the Effingham area as an exceptionally snowy month, though he has no records to quantify that assertion. More recently, he said, 17.2 inches of snow fell in March 1978, with much of that coming toward the end of that month.
Angel said Effingham received 8 1/2 inches of snow Sunday. Some areas farther north, particularly Springfield and Decatur, received more than a foot of snow Sunday.
While most major businesses were open Monday, most schools and evening activities were canceled.
Dan Smith of the National Weather Service in Lincoln said Sunday's storm resulted from a low-pressure system that passed well to the south of Effingham through southern Missouri and the southern tip of Illinois before crossing into Kentucky. Because central Illinois was north of that system, what would have normally been rain became snow.
"It started out as rain, then scattered thunder made the temperatures drop even faster and turned the rain into snow," Smith said.
Smith said flurries and snow showers were expected to continue through early this morning, though little additional accumulation is likely.
The heavy, wet snow made plenty of work for area road crews. Effingham City Engineer Steve Miller said city crews worked from 1 to 11 p.m. Sunday, before coming back at 4 a.m. Monday to make another pass, particularly on major roads, before stopping around 2 p.m.
"I thought they did a very nice job," Miller said.
Elsewhere in Effingham County, County Engineer Greg Koester said crews were helped by the fact that daytime temperatures have generally been above freezing the past few weeks.
"A March snow is always better than a December or January snow," Koester said. "If the ground had been frozen, it would have been much worse from a clearing standpoint."
Koester said his crews were out from 1 to 10 p.m. Sunday before coming back at 5:30 a.m. Monday and working through most of the day. He said, as a result, nearly all county roads are mostly clear.
"The only problem people might have Monday night is blowing snow," Koester said.
Effingham police were busy during the height of the storm Sunday afternoon, responding to four wrecks during a hourlong period during early afternoon. Details of those accidents are available on Page 5A.
Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or firstname.lastname@example.org.