Governors Pre-Empt Winter Storm With States of Emergency

As a major winter storm threatens to hit the Midwest, a number of governors are taking steps to get ahead of the potential disaster by declaring a state of emergency.

In a declaration from Illinois, Governor J.B. Pritzker stated that the upcoming blizzard, named Winter Storm Landon, was expected to "impact a substantial majority of the counties in the State of Illinois." The storm is being forecast to blanket portions of the Prairie State in anywhere from 9 to 20 inches of snow beginning Tuesday evening.

Pritzker added that the severity of the storm is "expected to exhaust local resources and capabilities." He therefore entered all Illinois counties into a state of emergency, allowing for the statewide purchasing of supplies to aid in storm recovery and clean up.

In Oklahoma, where the storm is expected to be more subdued but still has the potential to dump up to 10 inches of snow in certain parts of the state, Governor Kevin Stitt signed a similar disaster declaration ordering resources to be put toward combating the wintry conditions.

The potential for 10 inches of snow, however, will likely not be mirrored in the state's largest city and capital, Oklahoma City. While blizzard-like conditions will cause problems among drivers, the city is expected to only accumulate 3 to 6 inches of snow.

While the snow totals in the Sooner State may not be as significant as in Illinois, Stitt's order noted that "a mix of freezing rain, sleet, snow, strong wind gusts, and low temperatures" could result in numerous power outages across the state. In addition, a number of statewide agencies are being put on standby in order to assist in cleaning up hazardous roads throughout the next few days.

This includes the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT), which posted tips on Twitter for braving the icy conditions.

In addition to pooling state resources, signing disaster declarations also allows for states to request assistance from the federal government if needed. The White House typically monitors severe winter storms and sends resources such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to impacted states.

Pritzker and Stitt have not yet asked for federal assistance, but the issuance of the states of emergency will allow them to do so in the future.

Chicago Snowstorm
Ahead of a massive blizzard that is expected to cover much of the Midwest, the governors of Illinois and Oklahoma declared states of emergency Tuesday. This allows them to exhaust further resources and also request federal help if needed. Here, the city of Chicago can be seen following a snowstorm in February 2021. Scott Olson/Getty

As Illinois geared up to face the worst of the storm, officials stressed the potential danger of the massive snowfall, particularly for those driving on interstates. The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) released a statement reiterating that "the safest option is to stay home."

"If you must be on the roads, please be prepared for the real possibility of becoming stranded if you are unable to make it to your destination," said Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman.

The hardest hit areas of the state are expected to be central to southern Illinois. This corridor along the interstates is projected to receive up to 20 inches of snow.

The amount of slow lessens to the north, with Chicago expected to see around one foot of accumulation. Most forecasts show the northwest corner of the state is likely to miss the vast majority of the storm.

IDOT noted that the weather will cause additional issues for those on the roads.

"Blowing and drifting snow will create hazardous conditions Wednesday night and Thursday, with winds gusting to 30 mph," IDOT continued. "Colder air will bring subzero temperatures by Friday morning."

If traversing icy roads is necessary, IDOT urged travelers to reduce their speed, make sure their cellphone is charged and gas tank is full, and to prepare for a worst-case scenario.

Illinois and Oklahoma are just two of many states that could be significantly impacted from Winter Storm Landon. The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a winter weather advisory from Colorado to Maine, a distance of over 2,000 miles.

The Central Plains and Midwest are expected to bear the brunt of the storm, although the Northeast corridor and New York's Tri-State area may see eight to 12 inches of snow, as well.

Snow and ice may affect areas as far south as Texas and northern Mississippi, with lingering snow extending into the Ohio Valley and Ozarks, according to the NWS.

A White House official told Newsweek that "the White House is monitoring the storm. We are not tracking any requests for federal assistance at this time."