State, city are prepared for snow, cold: officials

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With potentially record cold forecast for Tuesday and the first real snow expected Wednesday, state and city officials say their fleets of snowplows and stockpiled salt are ready to keep roads clear and passable.

After Monday’s paltry high of 21 degrees with a low of 11 degrees, Tuesday is expected to bring a high from anywhere in the upper teens to 20 degrees. That could surpass the previous record maximum temperature of 22 degrees for Nov. 18 set in 1903, the National Weather Service said. Late Tuesday night and into early Wednesday morning a snowfall with the potential to cause commuter headaches is expected, the weather service said.

The Illinois Department of Transportation — which spent $131.4 million on snow removal and used almost 800,000 tons of salt during last year’s historic winter — has its 1,768 trucks set for deployment, IDOT officials said Monday at an Illinois Tollway and State Police press conference.

“IDOT spends the whole year preparing for this critical time of year. We take great pride in our snow and ice response and commitment to safety,” said Erica Borggren, acting Illinois Transportation secretary. “While our top priority is to make sure our roadways are safe as possible, we do ask the motoring public to do its part as well.”

Borggren said her agency has more than 1 million tons of salt stockpiled for use on its 16,000 miles of routes statewide — the equivalent of driving from Chicago to Miami almost 12 times.

The Tollway’s winter fleet has been increased to 185 snowplows, with more than 83,000 tons of salt stockpiled for use on the 286-mile system that is used daily by 1.4 million drivers statewide.

“Whenever the snow falls, we will be working around-the-clock to keep our roadways clear for customers who depend on us to safely reach their destinations,” said Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur. “Drivers can help by . . . giving our snowplows enough room to do their work.”

Meanwhile, the city’s Department of Streets and Sanitation has added 19 new snowplows and four new, smaller 4×4 snowplows this winter to a fleet of more than 280 snow removal vehicles responsible for maintaining more than 9,400 miles of roadway, city officials said this past weekend.

The city will begin the winter season with about 400,000 tons of salt stockpiled at 19 salt domes across Chicago, officials said.

“Streets and Sanitation has been preparing for the upcoming winter season since the spring by training drivers and supervisors, preparing the snow removal fleet, and receiving shipments of road salt,” Commissioner Charles Williams said. “We are ready for this snow season, and our snow removal team is ready to respond quickly and effectively to all winter weather scenarios.”

Williams’ department will monitor snow removal operations, road conditions and weather from the Snow Command center through access to over 1,400 citywide camera feeds, Doppler radar control, and atmospheric and road data sensors.

And city communications with residents around snow removal operations has been improved through its online Plow Tracker tool, which allows residents to track snow removal operations after a snowfall. New this year, residents can view the direction of travel for snow removal vehicles in real time, as well as snowfall totals.

It’s also that time of year for motorists to remember Illinois’ annual “Ice and Snow, Take it Slow” campaign, state officials said.

“Winter driving conditions can be hazardous and life-threatening for motorists and first responders if the necessary road safety precautions are not taken,” State Police Director Hiram Grau said.

State road conditions will be available at (800) 452-IDOT; for the Tollway, (800) TOLL-FYI; or online at

It’s expected to remain cold throughout the week, followed by milder weekend temperatures in the 40s, with rain; then more temperatures in the 20s next week. Thus far, November is posting temperatures that are 10 degrees below average for the typically colder month of January, weather service meteorologist Ricky Castro said.

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