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The calm before the big storm

Main roads through Evanston were generally wet and side streets were plowed but still snow covered early this afternoon from Monday night’s light snowfall as the city prepared for what forecasters say could be up to another two feet of snow to fall later today and into Wednesday.

Main roads through Evanston were generally wet and side streets were plowed but still snow covered early this afternoon from Monday night’s light snowfall as the city prepared for what forecasters say could be up to another two feet of snow to fall later today and into Wednesday.

A slushy Sherman Avenue downtown late this morning.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, in a noon-time conference call with reporters, said the city will ban parking on major streets overnight tonight as well as Wednesday and Thursday night and will follow daytime alternate side snow emergency parking rules on side streets on Thursday and Friday. Signs explaining the rules are posted on all affected streets.

Fire Chief Greg Klaiber said the city is calling in five additional firefighters starting at 7 p.m. tonight to work at least through tomorrow morning to staff the city’s third ambulance and a reserve fire engine so that if the storm slows response times for the regular crews on duty there’ll be extra hands available.

He said many firefighters who would normally start their shift tomorrow morning at 7 a.m. are coming in early this evening to be on hand in case road conditions make it difficult to get to work later.

And he urged residents to shovel out fire hydrants near their houses and clear sidewalks leading to their homes so that fire crews can get to them quickly in case of an emergency.

Crews from the city’s parks department and utilities department have been reassigned to snow plow duties, along with the usual public works crews to be able to put the maximum number of plows on the street.

Public Works Director Suzette Robinson said drivers are now working 12 hour shifts and that they’ve set up several sites where snow, especially from the downtown area, can be hauled and then melted.

Wednesday’s scheduled residential garbage pickups by Groot and recycling pickups by city crews will be delayed by at least one day, because the city crews are on snow plow duty. Robinson says the contractor handling pickups from condominiums was hoping to finish its Wednesday pickups before end of day today.

Parking Division Manager Rickey Voss said that to help drivers get their cars off the street to make it easier for plows to clear away the snow the city will offer free parking at the three city-owned downtown garages from 3 p.m. this afternoon through midnight Friday night.

The city this noon also made its first use of its new mass notification system — making automated voice calls to an estimated 20,000 households with listed phone numbers. Information on how well that system worked was expected to be available later this afternoon.

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl urged residents to stay home Wednesday, if they can, saying city staff "is doing a terrific job of being prepared, but it looks like this may be the worst blizzard we’ve ever had."

Robinson said the city’s salt dome is full to its 2,500 ton capacity and that all but one of the city’s plows is in operation, and that truck was expected to be back on the street after repairs before the end of the day today.

In case of power outages that cause residents to lose heat in their homes, the Health Department and Community and Economic Development Department will have inspectors available to assess conditions, and the city plans to keep the Robert Crown Center open overnight as a warming center and shelter.

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