Blizzard hits southern Illinois

CARBONDALE, Ill. (AP) — A gusty winter storm slammed southern Illinois on Wednesday, leaving roads covered in ice and snow and prompting authorities to warn of whiteout conditions that could significantly reduce drivers' visibility.

The National Weather Service said 4 inches to a foot of snow had fallen on the region as of Wednesday morning, with the heaviest amounts reported from Anna in Union County northeast to Harrisburg. As much as 3 more inches could fall before the snow is slated to taper off by midday.

WSIU Radio reported that the storm forced the weather service to issue its first-ever blizzard warning for the region. Forecasters said the storm could lead to whiteout conditions and reduce visibility to less than a quarter mile.

The weather also prompted authorities to close courthouses in Alexander, Franklin, Hamilton, Massac, Pope, Union and Williamson counties.

In Pinckneyville, about 60 miles southeast of St. Louis, Rich Emling wasn't catching much of a break. Emling and other workers at his eight-truck towing business had been scrambling to muscle vehicles out of ditches and other tough spots since well before daybreak Wednesday as the region's first significant snowstorm of the season left its mark.

Emling, 43, wasn't expecting any relief later in the day, when he suspected slushy roads to freeze.

"I'm not going to say we're overly swamped, but we're certainly steady," he said while hauling away a minivan that had slid off a road and hit a culvert. Even before dropping off that vehicle, Emling had another motorist in distress waiting for his help.

"When I was a kid, we had snowstorms all the time, but it seems like we get just two or three nowadays," Emling said.