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Local News

Snow rings in the new year, followed by brutal cold

John Tuohy, of La Grange, a member of the volunteer Pond Posse,  puts on his skates and brings out the big guns to clear one of the ice rinks at Gilbert Park in La Grange on Thursday.
John Tuohy, of La Grange, a member of the volunteer Pond Posse, puts on his skates and brings out the big guns to clear one of the ice rinks at Gilbert Park in La Grange on Thursday.

LA GRANGE – More than a foot of snow greeted residents as they celebrated the new year with shovels and ice scrapers in hand. 

An inch Dec. 30, 3 inches New Year’s Eve, 3.9 more New Year’s Day and 8 inches Jan. 2. had public works crews working around the clock to clear snow and slush from the village’s main roads and parking lots. 

Another 4 inches of snow fell over Saturday and Sunday, driving crews back out into the cold.

Monday, temperatures plunged to 16 below zero in the Chicago region, with a wind chill of 40 below zero. Schools across the area canceled classes citing the extreme weather conditions. School was canceled again Tuesday. While temperatures were supposed to be above zero, a frigid wind chill of 30 below zero caused schools to close classes for a second day.

“We’re doing fine,” La Grange Public Works Director Ryan Gillingham said Jan. 3. “We’ve been working quite a bit since it first started snowing New Year’s Eve. We’ve been working continuously. As the snow kept falling we stayed pretty much to our routes throughout the village and then once the snow stopped we were able to shift our focus to [clearing parking lots].”

Gillingham said the size of the storm forced his department to first focus on clearing snow out of the downtown area. Workers also had to prioritize La Grange Road, Ogden Avenue and 47th Street, which are state routes. But other areas, including residential streets, were still cleared, he said. 

“Our guys here do a great job, and this is part of the services that we provide,” said Gillingham, who, when asked if he’d been able to sleep at all, said: “It’s been busy.”

Gillingham wanted to remind residents to keep their distance from machinery like snow plows.

“Our drivers can’t always see everyone [from within] the large vehicles,” he said. 

La Grange police chief Mike Holub said there had been a minimal amount of accidents and no injuries related to the storm. On his drive to work, though, Holub said he noticed several residents walking in the middle of the road because the sidewalks weren’t clear, and he asked residents to stay near the curb when walking in the street.

In La Grange Park, plowing started Dec. 30 and continued until about 9:30 p.m. Jan. 2, Public Works Director Brendan McLaughlin said. Three full-time plow drivers worked 12-hour shifts to plow the village’s main roads, while supplemental drivers – like McLaughlin or a fire department employee – helped plow residential streets. 

“It was long in duration,” McLaughlin said of the storm. “There were no spells where we couldn’t keep up with it. Some storms you can’t keep up with. This one was just slow and steady.”

McLaughlin said trucks put down extra salt Jan. 3 – after the snow had stopped – to take advantage of the sunshine to help soak up some of the snow. It was also a way to prepare for the impending freeze that was set to hit the area. 

“We try to make sure we get them as good as shape as we can before this freezing cold because when it gets cold our salt doesn’t do anything,” he said. 

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