City of Naperville gets ready for winter, whenever it may show up
By Susan Frick Carlman firstname.lastname@example.org December 8, 2012 8:12PM
Updated: January 10, 2013 6:21AM
Nobody can predict with much certainty what the skies will bring in the coming weeks, but Naperville intends to be ready for whatever nature sends this way.
There’s plenty of salt on hand to keep the roads from icing up — some 16,000 tons of it, actually, thanks to last winter’s extraordinarily warm, dry ways. Christine Schwartzhoff, operations team leader in the Public Works Department, said the mild winter enabled the city to save $200,000 on salt this season.
Budgeting also was cut back when the usual summer restocking of the salt domes wound up being unnecessary.
“Based upon the favorable pricing that we received this year and the reduction in quantity that we anticipate needing, the city is expecting to save an additional $450,000 this winter,” Schwartzhoff said in an email.
The city could begin digging into the stockpile soon. A meteorologist at the Romeoville offices of the National Weather Service predicted that winter may make a slightly belated arrival before the beginning of next week.
“We have to say it looks like we’re going to kind of get into a more active weather pattern. This could last off and on through the next several months,” said Kevin Birk of the National Weather Service. “We’ve been spoiled here, obviously, this first week of (meteorologic) winter.”
Residents would do well to curb their hopes for another extra-gentle season. The pattern shown by the upper-level jet stream is lighter on the north-south flow that signaled the mild conditions of 2011-12.
That means winter is probably going to much more closely resemble winter this time.
“It looks like we could get near average to below average temperatures through the month, and that could continue into January,” said Birk, who noted that moisture in the forecast is good news after many months of below average rainfall.
“Even through the weekend, it looks like we’ll be getting some precipitation.”
With temperatures predicted to dip into the 20s every night for the next week, Will County trucks will be ready to tackle ice sheets that could form from that precipitation on streets and bridges.
“After the last mild winter, all our domes are filled,” said Bruce Gould, county engineer.
About 12,400 tons are on hand and ready for scattering, said Gould, who reported that the county had to buy about half its usual order of 18,000 to 22,000 tons of the salt-calcium chloride solution it sprays on the streets.
DuPage County crews also are poised to hit the streets when winter rolls in. County Board member Don Puchalski, who heads the transportation committee, said the truck fleet was outfitted with salt spreaders and plows in October, in preparation to keep the county’s 220 miles of highway readily passable. The vehicles cover 10 snow routes, each responsible for the equivalent of between 60 and 150 miles worth of pavement.
DuPage also is spending less on de-icing supplies for the upcoming season.
“We have a lot of salt from last year, but what we’ve been doing, which is kind of ecologically friendly, is we’ve been using something we call beet juice,” Puchalski said.
The county goes through about 75,000 gallons of the concoction, a blend of colorless beet juice and salt, annually, he said. The applications are concentrated on hills, curves and intersections, where slippery surfaces are most dangerous for motorists.
Puchalski had praise for county crews — including the employees who came in to help, even though they had the day off, after a massive snowstorm dropped more than 20 inches on the region Feb. 1 and 2, 2011, and closed down schools, businesses and governmental offices for several days.
“We do have a dedicated workforce,” he said.
It’s impossible to know if a blizzard of similar magnitude will happen again any time soon. Birk said major weather disturbances can only be reliably predicted a few days before they happen.
“We try to just gauge what the large scale weather pattern might be, what it might do,” he said.
Gould isn’t counting on it doing as little as it did in the most recent winter.
“Really we only had one storm last year, and that was about six inches,” he said. “Other than that, we really didn’t have much.”