Officials work to clear Chicago streets

February 1, 2011 11:45:46 PM PST
It's not just the lakefront that's a mess -- all of Chicago is getting buried in the blizzard and the city is trying to keep the streets clear.

City officials say that what they have learned from the historic snowfalls of 1967 and 1999 has been helpful when dispatching crews Tuesday night.

At the firehouse on East Chicago Avenue, firefighter Grant Raymond is testing out the latest weapon to fight the dangerous conditions facing emergency responders.

It is the first time in the history of the fire department that snowmobiles are being used for the rescues. There are a fleet of 50 at the ready.

"It seems super important because sometimes you can't get to people at all. If it's a narrow street or they're a distant down the narrow street," Raymond said.

"Those areas of the city where, due to tight squeezes as it is with cars parked on both sides with the snow conditions, if we see that we have an issue where we're not going to make it down, we're going to bring that snowmobile in," said Fire Commissioner Robert Hoff.

Clearing the streets for emergency crews are the more than 400 snowplows and garbage trucks. Cameras mounted around the city are providing good information for strategies on how to attack the storm.

City officials say preparations has been key. Mayor Richard Daley says safety for the residents is the city's number one priority.

"Every part of the city with a camera to see how the traffic is moving and also they have an accumulation of snow and ice. It's amazing," Daley said.

At University Village Tuesday night, blowing snow and winds are making it difficult for a tailor-made pizza delivery man and not only because of hazardous driving conditions. He locked the car keys in the car.

After about 30 minutes, he finally got the car open and was able to make his delivery to Thomas Beckman Hall on University of Illinois at Chicago campus.

"Classes cancelled, ordered food, happy to have food. I'm hungry," said student Nathan Gagich.

In Lincoln Park, employees tried to clear walkways while others took refuge inside trying to wait out the storm with a stogie.

In Wrigleyville, traffic was closed to pedestrians and motorists after tiles from the park were blown off by the high winds.

Extra fire crews have been brought in Tuesday night to address the frozen hydrants. Also, they're clearing the hydrants and addressing any kind of weather-related problems.