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Bitter cold creates dangerous driving conditions

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The bitter cold prompted Illinois Governor Pat Quinn to declare a disaster area for the whole state Monday. Crews also urged drivers to stay off the roads as temperatures dipped dangerously low.

At Grisham's Towing in East Moline, office staff said they've been "insanely" busy.

"We've had something like 49 calls today, and that's only the emergency ones. That's not counting ones we've had to turn down just because we're too busy. We've got extra guys running, we've got extra office staff coming in to answer phones," said Delia Nordholm.

Nordholm said most of the calls were for jump starts and drivers stuck in ditches. Monday night, Grisham's crews pulled both a jack-knifed semi and a pick-up truck from ditches near the I-80 and I-88 interchange.

The dangerous travel conditions also led Governor Quinn to activate the Illinois National Guard, which will help emergency crews respond to drivers stranded in the bitter cold.

"It's not only the cold weather, but the combination of black ice and drifting on our roads, that makes things very, very dangerous," said Quinn.

On the Interstate, flashing signs urged drivers to avoid all unnecessary travel.

"It's really interesting how many trucks are actually pulled over to the side, gelling up. I've been pretty lucky," one truck driver told News Eight.

If you must hit the road, officials say to make sure your cell phone is fully charged, keep your gas tank at least half-full, and keep a safety kit with extra blankets, gloves, coats, and a flashlight in the car.

If your vehicle becomes stranded, police also say to stay inside it until help arrives.