Evanston starts to shovel out from blizzard

Just before dawn today, with snow continuing to fall, main roads in Evanston appeared to be snow covered but at least barely passable, while most side streets had yet to be reached by snow plows.

Cars snowed in on Brummel Street east of Ridge Avenue about 8:30 this morning. (Mike Perlman photo)

Well over a foot of snow appears to have fallen in parts of the city and the National Weather Service is predicting that three to five more inches will arrive before the storm finally ends later today.

In a 7 a.m. conference call with reporters, Public Works Director Suzette Robinson said all the primary routes, except Sheridan Road, are passable with at least one lane of traffic open but that drifting snow is making it difficult to keep them open.

A lone car makes a slow climb up the hill on Church Street east of Ashland Avenue about 6:30 a.m.

She said crews will start working to reopen Sheridan — closed overnight by drifting snow from the south city limits to Chicago Avenue — around 10 a.m.

Robinson said some side streets have already been plowed, but many others haven’t. She said she hopes that plows will have been able to at least open a path down the center of all side streets by 7 p.m. this evening.

But because there’s so much snow, Robinson said, a lot of cars will be plowed in and it may take a substantial amount of time to get them out.

She said snow fell at a rate of as much as 2 to 3 inches per hour from roughly 9 p.m. until 2 a.m.

Daytime snow emergency parking rules will go into effect on Thursday and Friday. Robinson said that it will be important for residents on side streets to follow the alternate-side parking rules those days or it could taken even longer to get the side streets cleared.

Around 6:30 a.m., cars were caught in drifts at the curb on Wesley Avenue which hadn’t yet seen a snow plow. A plow came through a couple of hours later.

Robinson said the city still has massive amounts of snow to haul out of the downtown area and has brought in additional trucks from contractors to help out. The city plans to have its snow melting machine operating at University Place and Oak Street starting around 8 a.m. 

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl suggested that residents should stay inside today if they possibly can and should avoid shoveling the snow if they find it’s too heavy.

"It’s not worth ending up at Evanston Hospital," Tisdahl added, suggesting that many residents would want to hire someone else to do their shoveling for them.

Ridge Avenue looking south across Howard Street into Chicago about 8:30 a.m. (Mike Perlman photo)

Police Chief Richard Eddington said police only had to tow six cars overnight for violating the snow route parking ban. That was the lowest number officials could remember and compared to 142 cars towed after a much smaller storm earlier this winter.

City officials suggested the new mass notification phone system may have played a role in reducing the number of violations, but the massive media attention to the impending blizzard for days in advance may have also been a factor.

Fire Chief Greg Klaiber said it was a relatively quiet night for his department with just 10 calls after 10 p.m. and no working fires.

He said a ladder truck got stuck overnight at Central Street and Ashland Avenue but that the firefighters were able to shovel it out.

He said that with side streets still impassable, ambulance crews may have to carry patients longer distances to their vehicles and that they’ve made sled-like devices to help with that.

Parks Director Doug Gaynor said only three people stayed overnight at the warming center at Robert Crown. Day care facilities at Crown and the Fleetwood-Jourdain Center will operate today and recreation programs at those centers and at the Chandler-Newberger Center will operate from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The staff at the Levy Senior Center, he said, is coordinating volunteer snow shoveling efforts.

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