SNOW CIRA
Work crews at Central Illinois Regional Airport dealt with white-out conditions as they kept runways and taxi ways open, Tuesday, February 1, 2011. Flights in and out of CIRA were cancelled Tuesday and were expected to be closed most of Wednesday. (The Pantagraph, David Proeber) David Proeber

As the blizzard pummeled Central Illinois on Tuesday, residents struggled to respond. Following is a look at how some people dealt with the storm through the day:

Clinton, 8 a.m.

The storm is the main topic of conversation at Three Star Restaurant.

"Everyone's talking about it and predicting how bad it's going to be," says owner Danny Imeri. "I'm hoping it somehow goes around us, but I don't think that will happen."

Business is down about 50 percent. "We cannot go against Mother Nature," he said. "We cannot stop Mother Nature. We cannot control Mother Nature. When something like this comes around, there's really nothing you can do."

At the Kid Konnection day care and preschool center, there are 13 kids instead of the usual 60.

"The older kids understand that this is something unusual, even though this is probably the first major snowstorm most of them have seen," said owner April Harvey. "We talk about the weather and how it affects everything."

Clinton, 10 a.m.

The storm's threat brings a steady stream of customers into Save-A-Lot for basic grocery items.

"We shattered our all-time record yesterday for sales," said store owner Dave Jackson. "A snowstorm means milk, bread and eggs."

Jason Karr had an eye on the forecast when he planned his daily trip to the Clinton YMCA. "I wanted to get here before it got bad," said Karr, as he finished his three-mile trek on a treadmill.

With his exercise completed, Karr headed home. "I plan to stay home the rest of the day," he said. "I don't want to get out if I don't have to."

LeRoy, 11 a.m.

The IGA is crowded with residents stocking up on supplies. Manager Curt Hinrichs said the store has above-normal crowds and sales. The only item missing from shelves was bread, although a small shipment arrived before snow began to fall.

The store will stay open through the storm unless employees can't make it in. "I packed a bag," said Hinrichs, who lives in Gibson City.

The True Value still has shovels, ice melt and generators available. Like the IGA, it will stay open.

"Two feet, three feet (of snow), we will be open," said employee Heather Wilkins.

Warming centers, mainly for stranded motorists, will be at LeRoy Christian Church, LeRoy Junior/Senior High School and the Methodist Church.

Should the town lose power, the LeRoy Ambulance Service will operate a center for those with medical needs.

Downs, noon

The sledding hill is empty and snow is falling rapidly. No one is making snowmen, or playing outside. Even the dogs, who usually hang out outside, are inside. A solitary teen - wearing Tri-Valley high school colors - runs home after visiting a friend. Last night, people drove home with supplies. Today, their garages are closed and there is no street traffic. There are small drifts, but roads are still passable.

Eureka, 1 p.m.

Woodford County towns make their own arrangements for shelters, if they are needed. In Eureka, it's the Church of the Nazarene on Main Street.

"In (19)78 or '79, people (without power) started calling neighbors and people took people into their homes," says Emergency Management Agency Director Bob Hix. "Whether that would happen today, I don't know with the way things are. I don't see it. It's a different world."

The IGA set a record for sales Monday. The BP Fast and Fresh service station sold more than 8,500 gallons of gas.

"Yesterday was probably one of the crazier days I've seen in 20 years, and I've been doing this for 27 years," says IGA Assistant Manager Darryl Wilson said. "It's a lot like Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve rolled into one."

Lincoln, 1 p.m.

Wind gusts of more than 30 mph send snow sideways and cause near-whiteout conditions, even on city streets.

Walmart and Kroger appear well-stocked, although eggs are flying off the shelves. Only four shovels are left in a large display at Walmart.

Owner Shawn Taylor decides to close Logan Lanes bowling alley at 2 p.m. "It's terrible," he says. "There was too much snow; everybody freaked out."

Bloomington, 2 p.m.

Brian Paccamonti, a maintenance supervisor at Central Illinois Regional Airport in Bloomington, drives a massive Oshkosh snowplow on a circuit that kept runways and taxiways open.

"We try to check the taxiways and fire roads every 10 to 15 minutes," Paccamonti says, sitting high up over concrete blown over with drifting snow.

Paccamonti wears sunglasses in the whiteout conditions as he strains to keep the plow on taxiways. Snow pummels the windshields.

Even with flights canceled, workers rotate on 12-hour shifts to keep the runways open in case emergency traffic ends up at CIRA, he said.

Snow removal crews are not allowed to use salt on the concrete out of concern for aircraft and the concrete surfaces. That means the plows must scrape away, nonstop through the night.

Luckily, this storm is something the crews at CIRA can handle, he said.

"This is a unique snow," Paccamonti said. "It's not sticking and it's blowing off the runways. Our main concern is making sure there are no drifts on the taxiways and the fire roads."

"I'll be staying here overnight," Paccamonti said, "I've got a cot I'll sleep on because I'll be back at it in the morning."

All flights at CIRA were canceled Tuesday afternoon and evening and airport officials expected air operations to be closed through most of the day today.

-- Reported by Edith Brady-Lunny and Kevin Barlow, Clinton; Patti Welander, LeRoy; Phyllis Coulter, Downs; Jerry McDowell, Eureka; Ryan Denham, Lincoln; and David Proeber, Bloomington.

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