As I was shoveling the driveway yet again recently, I realized that I should have seen this coming from many fronts.
As an engineer and math enthusiast, statistically speaking we were due for all of the snow we received this winter. With the exception of the blizzard in early February 2011, our snowfalls have been very light for the past few years. I know this since I have to include how many tons of salt the city of Naperville spreads every year in our annual report to the Illinois EPA relative to our efforts to improve water quality.
As I was shoveling, my neighbor Mr. Bill (say that with a high-pitched voice and draw out the “ll’s”) reminded me of the second reason I should have seen this coming. My younger son Nick went off to college this last fall. Nick has always loved the snow, especially when it came to shoveling the driveway. From the time he was a toddler and helped clear the driveway with a sand shovel and Tonka truck, until he was a senior in high school and had much better things to do, he was extremely dependable on getting the driveway cleared.
But my driveway is small potatoes compared to the 1,500 lane miles of streets and more than 1,000 cul-de-sacs that our Department of Public Works is responsible for clearing. On top of that, they have a busy downtown central business district, the two heaviest-used train stations on the Metra line and dozens of city buildings and grounds to clear. They have done a great, professional job. I applaud our city employees, contractors and the leadership team in providing all of us great service during this challenging winter season.
Like many of our surrounding communities, the city was delayed in receiving its salt deliveries. We had a full supply of salt at the beginning of the season and had purchase orders lined up to replenish our supplies, even through a winter like the current one. As we started to put a dent into our supply, we requested delivery of our order.
Now, think back to the beginning of January. Remember those school days that were canceled due to the unusually cold temperatures? Well, those extremely cold temperatures affected the Illinois River near Peoria.
The Illinois River widens out considerably near Peoria, which decreases the depth of the river. This widening makes the river very shallow. (For those who aspire to become civil engineers, this is a great stormwater hydraulics exercise). Anyway, the shallow river is susceptible to freezing, which results in halted barge traffic on the river. The majority of salt for the Chicagoland area is delivered by barge on the Illinois River since it is the most economical form of delivery.
With salt deliveries delayed, the city of Naperville modified its salt application process to help conserve supplies. While plowing operations continued as normal and primary roadways received salt, the city began supplementing the salt supply by mixing in sand for application on secondary roadways with hills, curves and at controlled intersections.
This information was shared with the public through press releases, our website, social media and through our new Naper Notify notification system if you signed up for it. (That’s a hint, in case you were wondering. Visit www.napernotify.com to sign up if you haven’t already).
I also want to remind you that you can see the streets that have been plowed and salted on our interactive Snow Removal Map on the city’s website. That way, if you have to go out on one of these snowy days, you will at least know where our city plows have been and what areas still need clearing.
Bundle up and stay warm, only five more weeks of winter left.