Cities brace for slushy mix of snow

December 8, 2009 9:41:54 PM PST
A mix of snow and sleet will give way to rain overnight in the Chicagoland area- where temperatures should stay above freezing. In anticipation of the winter weather, ABC7 News This Morning will begin at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Snow has been falling for most of the day- lightly in the city and heavier in the suburbs. A winter storm warning is in effect in Lake, McHenry, Boone and DeKalb counties. A winter weather advisory is in effect in Cook, Kendall, DuPage and LaSalle counties.

Temperatures should stay above freezing overnight, so roads will mostly be wet and sidewalks slushy Tuesday evening.

Tuesday evening commute

The state police have instituted their emergency snow plan which means drivers involved in minor collisions should just exchange insurance and not call state police. The plan is instituted when there are lots of minor collisions.

On Tuesday night emergency crews responded to dozens of spin outs and crashes as drivers lost control.

"It's slick out here. I'm not sure some people should be out here on the road. You got to drive slow and take your time and drive carefully, said Rickey Stewart, driver.

"The first snow is always the worst because people always forget what it's like to have snow on the ground," said Chris Novak, driver.

During the evening rush hour, the warmer temperatures had the precipitation coming down in the Loop as mostly rain and not snow. As the night got colder, the snow began to fall, and roads became more dangerous.

"Crashes in winter driving- the highest factor tends to be speeding, going too fast for the roadway conditions and people following too closely," said Sgt. Ron Valenzuela, Illinois State Police.

Some of the heaviest accumulation is in the northern suburbs including Crystal Lake and Elgin.

The first snow of the season is testing snow removal crews. Plow truck drivers were out all morning and are out on the streets again Tuesday night.

The managers at the Streets and Sanitation Department never have to leave the headquarters building. The 967 cameras around Chicago are linked to their system so, they could see where the snow is hitting and monitor the progress of salt trucks.

And after the first snow program of the year, Tuesday morning, they say it all looked good.

"This is a great tool that we'll be able to use. We use them quite effectively yesterday and today to help us in what we did," said Thomas Byrne.

Despite the city's tight budget, city and state officials vow city snow removal remains a high priority. The city is also getting help from salt suppliers.

"Our salts domes are completely full and salt prices which are a hot, huge commodity- prices have come down significantly from last year. They are down about 50 percent," said Marisa Kollias, IDOT spokesperson.

Both IDOT and the city plan to have their full complement of trucks out on the roads throughout Tuesday night and Wednesday morning's rush hour.

And police say the first snow of the season typically serves as a wake-up call to drivers to slow down and drive more cautiously.

Counties prepare for snow

In McHenry County, Woodstock residents have seen about 2 inches of snow throughout the day- with most of it falling early on. A few flurries remained Tuesday evening, but the conditions are expected change quickly, ushering another blast of winter.

"We put the snow plow on the truck and covered up the mower and we got the horse barn prepared for the winter and put plastic on the windows and covered up the water tanks," said Valerie Sheldon, McHenry County resident.

"I went to fire up the snow blower and it didn't start? (Friends) fired it up for me, so I'm ready for the snowstorm," said Jim Carney, McHenry County resident..

For private plow operators, the first snow of the season means long hours -- and cash.

"I'm self-employed, so during the off season I supplement my income by plowing," said Robert Ferro, snowplow operator.

The last few days at Woodstock Power Equipment, which sells snow blowers, have been busy.

"When we get the heavy snow and the prediction of heavy snow, there is always an increase in sales," said Mary Andreas, Woodstock Power Equipment.

The brunt of the storm should hit Wisconsin, but several inches of wet, heavy snow are expected in Woodstock.


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