SPRINGFIELD – The spring snowstorm that swept across central Illinois over the weekend buried Springfield with a record 18 1/2 inches, helped by waves of thunder that cranked up the snowfall rate to about 2 inches an hour at times.
Schools, and even two universities, in the area canceled classes for Monday, and authorities in the state capital declared a snow emergency.
Late snowstorms are not uncommon and can hit even in mid-April, but the amount of snow over the weekend set records. In Springfield, the next highest amount of snow for a March 24 was in 1947 when the area got 2.4 inches, said Dan Smith, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Lincoln.
The storm packed thunder in areas around Decatur, south of Champaign and Effingham, unleashing torrents of snow just like a summer thunderstorm turns on drenching rain.
"The snowfall rate is enhanced quite a bit," Smith said. "I mean, you're talking maybe 1 to 2 inches per hour or less than an hour's time. So, it can pile up pretty fast."
The storm also left some without power. In Montgomery County, 1,200 Ameren Illinois customers were without power Sunday, the State Journal-Register in Springfield reported. Another 258 people in Mason County also were without power.
Classes were canceled at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Illinois State University in Normal.
Other high snow totals were recorded in Pana, in southeast Christian County, which got 16 inches. Taylorville got 13.7 inches, and Decatur recorded 12 inches. The smallest amount was in Hopewell, in Marshall County, which reported 1.8 inches of snow.
But with temperatures forecast to reach 40 degrees by Wednesday and climb as high as 55 degrees by Friday, the snow won't stick long.