Western Illinois University residence halls were scheduled to reopen after Thanksgiving break on Sunday at 10 a.m. However, Western sent out a “Note to Returning Students: Winter Weather”, warning students to drive safe as a winter storm warning was issued by the National Weather Service on Saturday.
Unfortunately, many students didn’t take precaution when traveling back to Western, causing them to be stranded in areas all across Illinois.
“According to the National Weather Service (NWS), a winter storm warning has been issued for McDonough and surrounding counties from 9 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 25 through midnight, Monday, Nov. 26,” the email from University Relations read. “The NWS warning indicates that hazardous winter weather conditions are expected to impact the area beginning late tonight and continuing through Sunday evening.”
The email also highlighted that due to precipitation likely to change form as the storm traveled from north to south, students should expect very hazardous travel conditions with blizzard like conditions. This consisted of heavy and blowing snow. Due to this many students decided to travel back Saturday in efforts to avoid any issues.
“I knew there was a bad storm coming in and I thought it would be a better idea to travel back the night before and only having to worry about finding a place to stay the night,” Devinn Wood, sophomore LEJA major said. “I knew I could count on one of my fraternity brothers to let me stay with them. I decided to travel early to avoid the high winds and and horrible roadconditions that could’ve possibly thrown my Jeep on it’s side.”
Kyle Ramlow, junior Political Science major, had similar thoughts when deciding not to postpone histravel arrangements.
“Instead of trying to leave early Sunday to beat the storm, I decided to drive back Saturday to avoid getting stuck on the road or drifting into ditches, which has happened to me in the past,” Ramlow said.
However, some students aren’t as fortunate as Wood and Ramlow and found themselves stuck in the middle of the road or stranded in a town they’ve never heard of. Three freshman heading back to Western found themselves experiencing something they’ve never had to endure.
“We were on our way from our hometown in Plainfield, Illinois, we left at about 2 p.m. and when we first got on the road it wasn’t bad,” Tyler Pradin, freshman LEJA major said. “Our GPS ETA just kept getting longer and longer.”
As the snow continued to come down, they found themselves looking at their GPS to navigate where the road was. With the snow piling up, the three got stuck in the road while attempting to head uphill, as did several other cars behind them.
“After many attempts of trying to get the car unstuck, we called the police and they told us they would get a tow truck to our location,” Robby Lundgren, freshman LEJA major said. “After two hours of waiting and wondering where the tow truck was, we figured they were not coming to get us.”
The three knocked on a nearby house in attempt to get help pulling them out of the ditch. With no success finding a hitch to pull the vehicle out, Galesburg resident Kurt Stewart opened up his house to the eight people who weren’t going to make it to their destination during the storm.
“He offered for us to stay at his house overnight to stay warm and have somewhere to sleep,” Sergio Wilson, freshman supply-chain management major said. “He warmed us some pulled pork and gave us bread, chips and drinks. He was such a great person and we couldn’t have thanked him enough.”
The three made it safely back to Macomb the next day. Similarly, Dexter and Dakotah Baker didn’t make it back to school on Sunday like they had planned.
“It was about an hour and a half into our drive when it began to get really bad but at that point it was too late to turn around,” Dexter Baker, senior LEJA major. “As we were driving we decided to try and make it to Galesburg to stay in a hotel.”
The two stopped at a gas station in Altona. People present advised that they did not attempt to travel another 20 miles to Galesburg since they couldn’t know if they’d safely make it there. Emmanuel Lutheran Church was opened to shelter people driving during the storm.
“The next morning it was still pretty bad, the roads were slightly plowed,” Dakotah Baker, senior LEJA major said. ”Driving back to Western we saw more than 75 cars in ditches.”
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