The digging out from the Great Blizzard of ’11 continued today. The Chicago public schools and city colleges will resume classes on Friday and Early Voting will sites will re-open. Here is the latest update on snow removal efforts:
Clearing Snow from Main Arterial Streets
The main arterial streets were finally cleared satisfactorily around midnight Wednesday night. We are continuing to monitor the condition of the arterial streets. Please keep in mind lanes may be narrow or reduced in places, especially on Sheridan Road, so please continue to use caution on the main roadways.
Clearing Snow from Residential Side Streets
Once the arterial streets were cleared, the 49th Ward crew turned its attention today to the residential side streets. With the announcement that schools will be in session tomorrow, our first priority was clearing the residential streets immediately surrounding the four public elementary schools in the 49th Ward–Field, New Field, Gale, and Jordan. Once those streets were sufficiently cleared, my Ward Superintendent turned his attention to the other residential streets, starting with those covered in large snowdrifts.
With snowdrifts as high as 10 feet on some of our streets, the snow removal process is incredibly challenging and painstaking. On a majority of our streets, the snow is simply too high for ordinary snowplows and requires special equipment. The City has provided us with front-end loaders, backhoes, and bobcats to help remove the snow. In many cases, there is simply no room to put the snow and it needs to be loaded in dump trucks and hauled to another location. This adds additional time to the snow removal effort.
The presence of automobiles left abandoned in the middle of the street also poses a problem. City tow trucks are stretched to the limit, and it often takes a long time to get a car removed so that our equipment can clear the street. Please do not attempt to drive your car until your street has been plowed. Otherwise, you are very likely to get stuck and hamper our snow removal efforts.
Our efforts to clear the snow are also hampered by individuals who pile snow in the middle of the street when they are attempting to dig their cars out or shovel their sidewalk. The large piles of snow freeze in the sub-freezing temperatures and make the streets impassable, forcing the City snowplows to return to plow the street yet again. When you shovel your walk or dig your car out of the snow, please pile the snow in the parkway. Do not pile the snow in the street.
We are making steady progress, but much remains to be done. The City work crews and private contractors will be working around the clock until every residential street in the 49th Ward is sufficiently clear of snow.
Clearing Snow from Alleys
I still have not been informed of the City’s snow removal plans with respect to alleys, but I did receive the following e-mail today from the Department of Streets and Sanitation press office:
“Several Aldermanic Offices informed us that they received alley plowing requests after a news report incorrectly reported that we performed this service.
“Just to clarify, Department of Streets & Sanitation does not plow alleys.
“Plowing can bury under a garage door or even break it.
“Rather than plowing alleys after a heavy snow we will assess their conditions. If necessary we will track an alley with a garbage truck. Traffic can then drive in those tire tracks and get through.”
As you may recall, my Ward Superintendent earlier this winter hooked a plow to his jeep and was able to plow the alleys in our ward during a relatively small storm. Unfortunately, the small plow proved incapable of handling all 172 alleys in the ward, as it broke when he tried to use it in a subsequent snowfall. And it certainly would prove no match for the huge piles of snow that accumulated in this storm.
In the 1999 storm, the last snowstorm of this magnitude, the City used front-end loaders to clear the alleys. The City’s budget director informed me today that it took 17 days and $72 million dollars to clear all the alleys in the City back then. The City simply doesn’t have that kind of money today. Given those limitations, my Ward Superintendent and I will do whatever we can to make the alleys passable, focusing on those alleys afflicted with large snowdrifts.
In the meantime, you and your neighbors might want to follow the example of the residents of the 7300 blocks of Bell and Oakley. One of the residents of Oakley shared with me this very nice note:
“I would like you to know how wonderful the residents of the 7300 block of Oakley and Bell Avenue are. Everyone came out yesterday and helped clean the alley with shovels and snow blowers. We all also helped each other in the front of the houses as well. It warmed my heart to look down the alley and see so many people working together.”
This neighborhood spirit was replicated on the block I live on and on blocks throughout the 49th Ward. If you’re interested in organizing a snow removal effort on your block, e-mail us at email@example.com so that we can help connect you to your neighbors.
A Note of Gratitude
I want to take this opportunity to thank the snowplow drivers and heavy equipment operators who have been working day and night to help protect our residents. I want to give a special shout-out to my Ward Superintendent, Greg Wagner, who has seen only one or two hours of sleep since the onset of the storm. He has been incredibly diligent in making sure we get the equipment we need to get the job done.
Once again, thank you for your patience during this trying time. Working together we will persevere and get through this tough winter weather.
If you have any questions or special requests, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call my 49th Ward Service Office at 773-338-5796.