Eastern Climatologist shares his views on severe weather conditions

Analicia Haynes, Online Editor

A severe winter storm will hit Coles County and 18 other surrounding counties over the weekend, leaving the roads covered with ice.

According to the National Weather Service, the winter storm watch is in effect late Friday through Sunday morning.

Eastern’s Climatologist Cameron Craig said the reason for the inconsistent weather patterns this past week is the fluctuation in the jet stream overhead.

The jet stream, which is a band of fast-moving air in the upper atmosphere that divides the warmer and cooler air masses, is shifting from North to South, Jesse Guinn, WEIU meteorologist said.

Craig said the county will continue to see this pattern as long as the jet stream continues to shift from North to South.

He said this division between warm and cold weather creates the ice. Since the temperatures are around freezing on the surface but warmer higher up in the atmosphere, the precipitation that falls will freeze on impact.

As for students who plan to make the long drive home this weekend, he said to still drive with caution despite the storm starting late Friday and ending before Monday.

Craig said if students are heading to Chicago for the weekend and leave early Friday, there is a chance the roads will be “pretty good” on the way up North.

But, he said because of the rain this morning, there might be some slick spots as well, unless they have the roads cleared.

He also said there will be slick icy roads along Interstate 57 until drivers hit Champaign if heading North early Friday.

On the drive back to Charleston, however, he said there is likely to be ice on the roads from Kankakee to Charleston and even further south.

He said as long as the jet stream is very active, this inconsistent pattern is expected to stay.

“Winter weather is the most difficult type of weather to predict because we’re dealing with a frozen state,” he said. “We’ll take it as it comes.”

He said if students or residents do decide to head out this weekend, it is important to “keep an eye on” the road conditions, which can be found on the Illinois Department of Transportation’s website.

“If you don’t have to be out, don’t be out,” he said and also added that if students decide to go home and are heading back from their weekend that there is “no reason to be rushing back.”