City plows try to keep up with snow as cancellations pile up
SUN-TIMES MEDIA March 4, 2013 9:40AM
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Updated: March 5, 2013 5:38PM
AURORA - Old Man Winter has made a motion to postpone official city business in Aurora, but not in Naperville.
Citing concerns about the continuing wintry weather, Aurora is canceling a Committee of the Whole meeting scheduled for 5 p.m. tonight.
Instead, Aurora aldermen will hold back-to-back Committee of the Whole and City Council meetings next Tuesday, at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. respectively at City Hall, said Rachel Pruneda, deputy city clerk.
Aldermen discuss proposed City Council agenda items at Committee of the Whole ahead of voting on the items at City Council meetings.
The Oswego Village Board also canceled its meeting tonight, which would have included discussion of the village’s facade improvement program and approval of development plans among other business.
However, Naperville’s City Council meeting Tuesday night will go on as scheduled.
“Based on the reduction in rate of snowfall (downgraded to max of 1 inch per hour), relatively warm temperatures, currently 33 degrees, warm pavement temps, and current reduced prediction of 3-4 additional inches, tonight’s meeting will go off as scheduled. Heaviest snow is occurring now, will taper into the evening,” City Manager Doug Krieger wrote in an email to the Naperville City Council in the early afternoon. “We have entire snow fleet out, salting, streets are wet, salt working well. Contractors for cul de sacs are coming in between 6 and 7 p.m.”
Meanwhile, public works departments are try stay in front of today’s storm, which as of 1 p.m. was piling up on residential streets and starting to stick and create slushy conditions on major thoroughfares.
As of 11:30 a.m. 35 snow plows and trucks were circling Aurora’s streets, salting and clearing roadways, according to city spokesman Dan Ferrelli.
They began work at 4 a.m. salting primary streets, but with heavy snow continuing to fall across the Fox Valley, crews everywhere are working to clear mostly major arteries.
Aurora plans to send more plows onto the street as needed, according to Ferrelli.
By 11:45 a.m., Kendall County announced that it would be relying on its emergency traffic crash reporting plan -- any driver involved in an accident without injuries is asked to exchange name, phone number, license and insurance information, and note the time, date and location of the accident and report it within 48 hours to the Kendall County Sheriff’s Office.
Meanwhile, schools, park districts and libraries across the Fox Valley, from Geneva to Yorkville, closed Tuesday, with few exceptions. East Aurora, which does not bus its students, stayed open and parents drove slowly, inching their way through sloppy streets to drop of their children in time for the first bell. Aurora University and North Central College in Naperville were also open Tuesday.
Several other events for the day have been canceled in anticipation of the up to 10 inches of snow forecast for the region. Among them, a statewide emergency tornado drill scheduled for today at 10 a.m. will be postponed until tomorrow.
The Aurora Public Library planned to close at 4 p.m., and even the Phillips Park Zoo was closed for the day, as employees could no longer keep up with clearing icy, snow-buried walkways.
The light snow was expected to intensify until about 10 or 11 a.m., largely missing the morning rush, said Jamie Enderlen, weather service meteorologist, but the evening rush hour will be a different story. “Especially the afternoon commute is probably going to be an utter mess,” Enderlen said.
“By late morning through the evening, we’re expecting some pretty heavy snowfall, up to an inch or 2 inches per hour,” she said. “That could cause a traffic nightmare. When it falls that quick, plows have a hard time keeping up with it.”
Meteorologists initially believed as much as 10 inches could blanket the area, but those predictions were downgraded by the time the storm hit.
Now it is believed 4 to 8 inches will pile up across a broad swath of the Chicago region, stretching from southern McHenry County in the north to Kankakee County in the south, according to the weather service.
More than 770 flights have been canceled at O’Hare and more than 215 flights canceled at Midway early Tuesday morning in advance of the storm.
Areas closer to Lake Michigan could see higher snow totals because winds off the lake could create lake-effect snow.
Wind gusts up to 30 mph will cause blowing and drifting snow, bringing visibility down to a quarter-mile or less on roadways.
The weather service advised people who must drive to keep an extra flashlight, food and water in the vehicle in case of an emergency.
Illinois State Police are urging drivers to leave early, slow down and leave plenty of following room, officials said in a travel advisory issued Monday night.
Authorities also are encouraging motorists involved in non-injury crashes during extreme weather conditions to exchange information and file crash reports at their nearest State Police district within 10 days.
The predicted 4 to 8 inches is likely to surpass the 5.4 inches accumulated at O’Hare International Airport on Feb. 26 and Feb. 27, the weather service said. Some areas could see even more accumulation. That storm blanketed north suburban Antioch with 12.1 inches of snow.
The statewide Test Tornado Drill which was scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday has been postponed because of the anticipated winter storm.
The Test Tornado Warning has been rescheduled to 10 a.m. Wednesday. At that time, an actual Tornado Warning, with test wording inserted throughout, will be issued by Illinois National Weather Service Offices for all 102 counties in the state. The drill is being conducted to test communications equipment in conjunction with Illinois Severe Weather Preparedness Week.
In Naperville, more than two dozen plows from the city’s Public Works Department were at work by 9:30 a.m., and more were waiting in the wings.
“As the day moves on, we’ll be drawing more in,” operations team leader Christine Schwartzhoff said.
If the snow becomes heavy enough to hinder travel for emergency responders, plows will be dispatched to clear just ahead of them, she added.
“We’re ready. We have plenty of salt, plenty of equipment, plenty of people,” Schwartzhoff said. “I think the big thing is for people to avoid driving if they can, so we can clear the roads.”
The cul-de-sacs may see a pass or two before mid-afternoon, she said, but the most concerted plowing effort will begin around 4 p.m.
“Most of the heavy snow is predicted to come before 3:00, so we’ll plan to do our heavy plowing after that,” Schwartzhoff said. “We don’t want to have to go back and plow too many times.”