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Storm keeps plows working, schools closed

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014 12:44 p.m. CDT
Caption
(Erica Benson - ebenson@shawmedia.com)
Berwyn Park District employee Dominic Pecoraro shovels the sidewalk outside their Oak Park Ave location after the recent snow storm Friday.

Old Man Winter’s got nothing on those bleary-eyed, cold, sore-backed boys plowing snow-packed streets as the Chicago area comes out of its third significant snow this winter season, which was followed by the coldest weather in two decades.

“So far so good,” Berwyn Public Works Director Bob Schiller.

Schiller said snow had been pushed to the curbs on the city’s main streets, salt spread, and plowing on residential streets would continue throughout the week.

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

On 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.

While temperatures were supposed to be above zero, a frigid wind chill of 30 below zero cause schools to close classes for a second day.

Classes were scheduled to resume after break Monday for most students in Berwyn and Cicero, but classes were closed for all Berwyn and Cicero students.

South Berwyn School District 100 had an in-service day Monday and its students didn’t need to brave the sub-zero temperatures. However, students got another day off when school district officials closed all the schools on Tuesday as well.

The Arctic air that plunged temperatures far below the zero mark on Monday has only made efforts to make streets safer to travel more difficult as salt becomes ineffective when it gets that cold outside.

Public Works crews began plowing at 2 p.m. New Year’s Eve, running six shifts of 12 hours on, 12 hours off, Schiller said. He added their is a process when tackling storms that have a long duration.

“We were anticipating this storm to last 36 to 40 hours,” he said. “Our process is to put down a layer of salt to reduce the amount of bonding the snow and ice has to the road and we’ll begin plowing. We then use a bare minimum of salt until the end of the storm.”

Salting is then resumed during the final clean up.

Schiller cautioned that road salt begins to lose its ability to melt at about 25 degrees

“Salt will be virtually useless [Monday and Tuesday],” he said. “The only thing that will help us is the heat of the tires on the road and any sunshine we get.”

Schiller said about 1,400 tons of salt has been spread so far this year, which amounts to about a third of the city’s allotment. Another delivery of salt came Saturday.

“We’re doing all right,” he said. “Our orders are coming regularly.”

Cicero Public Works Commissioner Sam Jelic planted his tongue firmly in his cheek to describe the New Year’s Eve storm.

“It was a terrific gift for the new year,” Jelic said. “It’s one thing to go through a storm and clean up. Then to do it three times, it’s pretty stressful.”

Jelic said his crews had pretty much plowed main and side streets and the alleys last Friday and were getting ready for what the weekend was going to bring.

Jelic said a total of 16 plows were operating three shifts, 12 hours on, 12 hours off, to clear more than 900 miles of street.

“My main concern is clearing the main streets, then we’ll work on the side streets,” Gaelic said. “Then if we’re able,we’ll try to get the alleys done.”

As for salt supplies, Jelic said the Town is in good shape.

“We still have salt, We’re going through last year’s salt now,” he said. There is also an emergency stash on hand if needed, “but we’re pretty good, we’re OK.”

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