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City preps for impending snowstorm: ‘Our response will be unified,’ mayor says

City news briefing on preparations for winter storm

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other city department leaders stressed uniformity in the city's response to a snow storm that threatened to drop up to nine inches on the city. | Sam Charles/Sun-Times

With an approaching winter storm threatening to drop more than half a foot of snow on Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and city agency leaders are preaching patience and safety to the residents of a city that has seen its fair share of crippling snowfalls.

“This is not our first snowstorm ever as a city and it’s not our first snowstorm this year,” Emanuel said at a press conference Friday afternoon at the headquarters for the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications in the West Loop. “Like any one that’s of any serious note, we take it seriously here in the City of Chicago and we bring all the efforts of all the departments in a coordinated fashion to address it.”

“Our response will be unified, it will be uniform, it will be unyielding,” he added.

As of 3 p.m., with light snow flurries beginning to fall, the city’s Department of Streets and Sanitation had deployed 210 plows and salt trucks in an effort to maintain adequate driving conditions on the city’s main thoroughfares.

As the snow falls, crews will focus first on arterial streets before moving to residential areas, said John Tully, commissioner of the Department of Streets and Sanitation.

Snowplow routes can be monitored at cityofchicago.org/plowtracker.

Acting Executive Director of OEMC Rich Guidice — who Emanuel nominated to take full control of the department Friday — said that it’s “up to each of us to be prepared to avoid weather-related emergencies” and encouraged people to stay in their homes during the storm if possible.

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Guidice also advised residents to check on any elderly or sick neighbors and relatives during the snowfall.

Volunteers with the social justice group My Block, My Hood, My City plan to gather Saturday morning near the 79th Street station on the CTA Red Line to be dispatched around the South Side to help shovel snow for the elderly and others unable to clear snow.

Beginning Friday afternoon, the snow could fall at a rate of about an inch per hour, with 5 to 9 inches expected by Saturday morning north of I-88, according to the National Weather Service. Areas south of the interstate could see between 3 and 7 inches.

The anticipated snowfall had already impacted flights at Chicago’s two airports. Department of Aviation Commissioner Jamie Rhee said about 200 flights were canceled at O’Hare and another 100 were canceled at Midway as of 3 p.m.