Whatever time you woke up Friday morning to see the snow coming down, City of Evanston crews were already hard at work trying to clear the streets.
“It’s exciting to us,” says Edgar Cano, of the Public Works Agency.
“We don’t look forward to it,” he adds, “but we see it as a challenge.” The workers, he says, “are very proud of what they do” to make it safer to drive around town.
The city has 25 plow trucks for 190 lane-miles of roadway. There are also a dozen smaller pieces of equipment for clearing sidewalks and parking lots.
The normal overnight crew, Cano says, is six people for six trucks. That steadily increased along with the snowfall, reaching 15 trucks overnight, and then 25 plus the smaller vehicles when the day shift started at 8 a.m.
The forecast for Friday had changed — from only an inch or so of snow — to a lot more. Driving around town, Cano says, there are some places where the snowfall is eight or nine inches deep.
“You can’t use the same game plan every time,” he says. “You have to adapt.”
While you “always prepare for what the forecast calls for,” he adds, “you also have to follow your gut.”
There are now about 45 city crew members out tackling the weather.
City spokesperson Patrick Deignan says, “Snow clearing will continue around the clock until all streets are cleared, which will require overtime.”
Major streets, including bus routes and roads to the hospitals are cleared before the side streets.
Evanston uses a variety of snow and ice melters. Deignan says the city had 3,000 tons of salt on hand before this latest snowfall. Public Works crews make a salt and brine mix, and can store 18,000 gallons.
The city also uses something called Beet Heet, a mixture of chlorides that work better than salt and brine when the temperature drops below 15 degrees. It’s considered a “green” melter, because it is biodegradable.
Evanston’s snow removal budget for the current fiscal year is about $1.3 million.