Naperville deals with more bitter cold

<p>Commuters wait for an early train at the Metra station in <a id=Naperville Tuesday. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times 

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Commuters wait for an early train at the Metra station in Naperville Tuesday. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times 

Yep, it was cold outside.

Naperville, and the rest of the Chicago area, shivered Monday and Tuesday with subzero temperatures which closed schools, kept a lot of shoppers at home and made life a little harder for everybody.

The winter of 2014 is not likely to be forgotten soon, given the one-two punch that has settled in over the Midwest with snow accumulation and now another arctic blast.

The weather closed schools in both School District 203 and School District 204 on Monday and Tuesday.

Tuesday morning, officials here in Naperville said that, all things considered, things are operating throughout the community just as they should.

“We gave some of our non-essential staff the option to take the day off and not come in if they wanted, but the majority of our people are here,” said Kevin Finnegan, director of parks for the Naperville Park District. “We only had maybe five or six of the 45 people we have in that group not come in. There’s still plenty to do indoors like refinishing picnic tables and inventories we have to conduct.”

Finnegan said early checks are made in the morning along the DuPage River Trail and other areas to make sure they are safe, but that the primary concern during times like this is the park staff.

“We don’t want people out any more than necessary and we try to limit having personnel out there,” Finnegan said. “Believe it or not, we also check our sledding hills because despite the temperature, you will see a person or two out there from time to time.”

Finnegan said that all water lines, lights, and other structural components are operational and “working as they were designed to.”

“We did have a water line break back during the Christmas holidays, but right now, we’re all clear in terms of lighting and water lines and our winterization program that we have put into place,” he said. “We have designed our systems to withstand these extremes and they are all functioning.”

Like Finnegan’s crew, city workers are likewise spending their days doing inside tasks. Communications manager for the city of Naperville Linda LaCloche said she checked with department heads Tuesday morning and that while no problems have been reported, crews are busy with other tasks.

“We also don’t want our people exposed to the elements during these times, so they’re not out trimming trees but are working in the prep shop making signs and doing equipment maintenance,” LaCloche said. “The biggest problems for us, really, are when it starts to warm up. That’s when we see a lot more of the breakages.”

Potholes likewise emerge as the weather warms up, LaCloche said, and overall while streets remain in good shape, there are strategies in place to repair potholes within 24 hours.

“We see more of this on the main arteries where there is more traffic, but we also have a quarterly review of all the neighborhoods,” she said. “If we receive calls, we take care of things within a day.”

On the business side of things, Christine Jeffries, president of the Naperville Development Partnership, says that “January is always a month of hibernation” and that merchants generally anticipate diminished foot traffic.

“We have Valentine’s Day coming up which always gets people out and we’re also rolling out a citywide ‘restaurant week’ here in Naperville for the first time,” Jeffries said. “Like Chicago’s version, ours will actually run for two weeks, but we’re having high end as well as more family style restaurants offering everything from a tier one meal to special appetizers and other options.”

Jeffries said “pent up demand” will bring shoppers and diners back to the streets within the next week or so regardless of the weather.

“People will just feel the need to get out and explore and may well find some great bargains,” she predicted.

When it comes to business, some of the busiest people over the past few days about been people who repair furnances.

Although they love the work, they say there are many ways residents can make sure their furnance will work during weather like Naperville has had recently.

“Furnaces will work harder in this weather and put more strain on older equipment,” said Mitch Zych, general manager of A.W.E. (Air Water Energy) which serves the Naperville area. He agrees that a constant thermostat temperature between 68 and 70 degrees works best.

Zych also warns people who have high efficiency furnaces to take special care to watch that the intake vent doesn’t get blocked by drifting snow or see that vent pipes aren’t covered with frost.

He said business has been brisk because of the cold, and on Sunday his company replaced three furnaces.