With schools closed and many businesses either closed or letting employees work from home, Evanston residents this afternoon are digging out from from what’s now described as the third-biggest snowstorm in Chicago history

With schools closed and many businesses either closed or letting employees work from home, Evanston residents this afternoon are digging out from from what’s now described as the third-biggest snowstorm in Chicago history

Family members work to dig their car out of the drifted snow on Wesley Avenue.

Snow has stopped falling at O’Hare Airport with the snow depth now reported at 20.2 inches — topped only by the 23.0 inches of the January 1967 blizzard and 21.6 inches of the storm in January 1999.

Public Works Director Suzette Robinson said at an early afternoon news conference that she now anticipates city crews will be able to reach all residential streets in Evanston sooner than the 7 p.m. deadline she’d set earlier today.

She said three pieces of heavy equipment are working to open the way for plows to finish clearing Sheridan Road and that it should be reopened to traffic within the next few hours.

The snow route parking ban will be in effect for a second night tonight as crews try to remove the rest of the snow from main roads.

Robinson says much of the snow has to be carted off to parking lots and other locations around town where it can be temporarily stockpiled.

Another mission for snow crews tonight will be to clear snow from around schools and the streets adjacent to them so that school buses will be able to deliver students to the schools when they reopen tomorrow.

Drifts mean lots of work ahead for residents on side streets trying to move their cars ahead of Thursday’s snow emergency parking ban (Mike Perlman photo).

Northwestern University is helping out with eight of its trucks that will be used to help clear residential streets near the university campus, Robinson added.

Daytime snow emergency parking bans on side streets will be in effect Thursday and Friday as crews work to get those streets plowed to the curbs.

Robinson said it appears likely that residential trash and recycling pickups will not resume tomorrow, because, with alleys unplowed trucks from the private hauler Groot won’t be able to get through. “We’d spend our whole day fishing them out,” Robinson says.

A final decision on what to do about the garbage pickups is expected late this afternoon.

Police Chief Richard Eddington said that crime reports during the storm have been very low, that most of the work officers have had to deal with has involved traffic accidents and abandoned vehicles.

Fire Chief Greg Klaiber said his department’s call volume has increased so far today, but is still no more than what it would be on a typical day.

He said ambulance crews are still challenged by snow drifts making access to some locations difficult, but that they’ve gotten great assistance from public works crews in getting down streets when calls come in.

Parks Director Doug Gaynor said nobody showed up to take part in recreation programs at the Chandler-Newberger and Fleetwood-Jourdain recreation centers this morning, so those centers have been closed for the day. The Robert Crown Center will be available again overnight as a warming center.

Parking Manager Rickey Voss said the city’s three downtown parking garages — which for the first time were opened to provide free parking during the storm to help keep cars off the street that might otherwise interfere with plowing operations —  are now about 60 percent full. The roof-top levels of the Maple Avenue and Sherman Plaza garages are still closed because crews haven’t had time yet to remove snow there.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz credited Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons with coming up with the idea of providing free storm parking in the garages.

Lyons said it’s worked well so far, “but we’ll see what happens tomorrow when all the business people come back” looking for their parking spaces.

The free parking in the garages is scheduled to end at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday morning.

Bobkiewicz said he plans to resume normal operations at city facilities including the Civic Center, recreation centers and public libraries tomorrow.

CTA officials say service on the Purple and Red lines is running normally, but Yellow Line service to Skokie has been suspended because of the storm. There are no reports of disruptions to CTA bus service in Evanston, but many buses may be running more slowly than normal. Metra reports it’s providing Sunday level service on the Union Pacific North Line.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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