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First winter storm delivers snow, driving difficulties

To the delight of winter enthusiasts and kids waiting for Santa Claus, Mother Nature delivered Dec. 20 with a snowstorm that would bring a white Christmas to Ogle County.

However, the storm also brought blizzard conditions and slick roads causing accidents and leaving stranded motorists, especially in the northwest corner of the county.

"Routes 72 and 26 north of Forreston were the worst," said Sheriff Michael Harn. "People just abandoned their cars because they couldn't see. That area got twice as much snow as the rest of the county."

He cautioned the public to heed the warnings and advisories issued by his department during storms.

"When we say don't travel, we mean don't travel," he said. "We had several accidents. Fortunately there were no serious injuries or fatalities. We towed 20-some cars that were abandoned."

The storm brought as much as 6 inches of snow, whipped around by winds that gusted as high as 50 miles per hour, to the northwest corner of the county, closing state highways and county roads.

The snow totals tapered off across the county, with Mt. Morris getting 3 inches and areas father east getting as little as an inch.

Harn sent snowmobiles out Friday morning to rescue a man and his 14-year-old son stranded since 5 p.m. the night before when the howling winds and heavy snow drifted Ill. 72 shut about two miles west of Ill. 26.

The Shannon Fire Department attempted the rescue, but couldn't get through the drifts, he said.

Stephenson County Illinois Department of Transportation crews plow and maintain that section of Ill. 72, but were tied up in the Lena area where the storm was worse, Harn said.

The Ogle County IDOT crew freed up equipment and plows and opened the road early Friday afternoon, he said.

Students in the Forrestville Valley School District got out a day early for Christmas vacation when schools were closed Friday storm's aftermath.

Superintendent Lowell Taylor said he checked road conditions early and decided against sending buses out to pick up students in the 180-square-mile district that lies in both Ogle and Stephenson Counties.

"It just wasn't safe for students," he said Friday afternoon. "The roads are hard-packed and a glare of ice. Some roads have drifts 3 to 4 feet deep. Besides that, 200 people in German Valley were without [electric] power this morning."

A week-long cold snap that set in after the storm kept the snow on the ground for Christmas.

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