Winter doesn’t snow Wilmette crews
A Wilmette Public Works front end loader moves some road salt during a snow storm on Friday, December 28, 2012. Village crews clear hundreds of miles of roads, sidewalks and alleys of snow and ice every winter. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 4, 2013 6:44AM
WILMETTE — When the first lasting snow in almost 300 days fell last week, drivers and residents may not have been too overwhelmed, since the village’s streets and sidewalks were either cleared and salted, or well on their way to being so.
That’s the way the village’s Public Works Department team likes it, because it means the planning they started months ago have been successful.
“Late summer is when we start our preparations,” Assistant Department Director Ken Kennedy said Dec. 26. “We start working on snow removal equipment then, we make sure we have plenty of salt to start the season. By the time it snows, we’re ready to go.”
That includes ensuring that hundreds of tons of ice-fighting rock salt are available at the department’s Laramie Avenue facility, he said. Crews have also readied Wilmette’s 10 salt-spreading road plows, its sidewalk plows and almost a dozen ancillary vehicles that can get pressed into service when winter precipitation threatens to slow down traffic or otherwise snarl travel.
Department crews have a lot to ground to cover: Wilmette has 374 miles of traffic lanes, and 166 miles of sidewalks to keep clean, Department Director Donna Jacubowski said last year, and 20 miles of alleys as well.
Once a “winter storm event” is under way – and that doesn’t just mean snow, Kennedy said – Wilmette’s response plan kicks in, including street parking bans (one side of streets narrower than 27 feet wide for fewer than two inches of snow; both sides of streets for 24 hours after two or more inches fall.)
“We have to treat streets the same whether we get a dusting of snow, or freezing rain, or a full snow storm. It’s all precipitation,” he said. Keeping streets clear of snow and ice means plowing the same miles several times if a storm lasts long enough, he added.
The village’s large arterial streets get first priority, normally being plowed and salted with either one truck or two operating in tandem. Crews try to tackle business and commuter area sidewalks at the same time, aiming to complete them by 8 a.m. after the event starts.
Crews can then turn their attention to Wilmette’s side streets, which are plowed after two or more inches of snowfall. They also plow sidewalks near schools if that amount of snow hits. Residential sidewalks get plowed after four inches of snow, as do alleys, as long as all the side streets are completed.
Wilmette also pays a private contractor to clear commuter parking lots after two inches of snowfall; after they are plowed, village trucks move in to salt the lots.
Last year’s mild winter means that his crews started the 2012-13 snow season with between 800 and 900 tons of salt at the Laramie Avenue dome. With luck and mild weather, the new season’s salt (purchased through a state contract at $51.49 per ton) won’t be needed until well into the New Year.
Jacubowski’s and Kennedy’s winter to-do list doesn’t end with snow removal, however.
“Whenever it gets cold, we have water mains that break, so that’s a concern we deal with throughout the winter,” Kennedy said. “And you have to remember that nothing else comes to a halt during the winter … we still have high winds that affect our trees, we still have garbage to pick up, we still have to do everything we have to do all year.”
To learn more about Wilmette’s snow and ice control program, visit www.wilmette.com/departments/public_works/snowandicecontrol.