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Broad effort as Downers Grove plow crews prepare for major snowfall

Published: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 12:58 p.m. CST

DOWNERS GROVE — As winter seemingly makes up for lost time with a March blizzard, Downers Grove snow plow crews are gearing up for the first major event of the season.

With as much as a foot of snow on the way, village snow crews have been salting streets since early this morning, but the challenge will come later as snow is predicted to pile up faster than crews can work.

At this point, conditions are just wet and slushy, and the roads have been clear of incidents, according to Downers Grove police.

That could change this afternoon. The National Weather Service is calling for temperatures to drop, winds to pick up and snowfall to become more intense between noon and 6 p.m.

That last part especially can make plowing difficult, said Stan Balicki public works assistant director for operations.

Downers Grove is divided into 10 plow routes, and each can take a few hours to clear. If snow is accumulating at 1 to 2 inches per hour, it presents a mounting task.

"That snow is coming down faster that the plow drive can make it through the entire route," Balicki said. "You could have several inches of accumulation by the time they get back to the beginning of the route."

To prepare, the village's street crews are heading into the night with all hands on deck. In a typical snowfall, public works might have a few reserve people on hand to fill on. On Tuesday, those reserves will be put to use full time, Balicki said.

"So we can get more equipment, more people out on the streets," he said.

The village's snow policy calls for clearing all major arteries — such as Main Street, Fairview Avenue, school zones and hospital routes — within 12 hours of the end of snowfall. Minor streets and cul-de-sacs are to be cleared within 18 hours. But officials are working to get ahead of that schedule.

The additional workers will help plow crews at least clear a path on every street as quickly as possible before going back for a more thorough clearing. That is important when the accumulation is more than a few inches, and even four-wheel drive vehicles might have a tough time getting out of the driveway.

"Our goal is to get through everything as quickly as possible," Balicki said. "We're really utilizing everybody."

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