Snow is no problem for village plows
Knowing when to send out the plows is part art, part meteorology, local officials say. | Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 8, 2013 7:09AM
The mild winter has been a quiet one for Harwood Heights and Norridge Public Works departments.
Monday’s snow marked only the second time this winter that department heads sent out the snowplows.
Harwood Heights covers about one square mile; Norridge, nearly two.
Plows in Norridge hit the streets around 3:30 a.m. Feb. 4 and in Harwood Heights, about 4 a.m.
“We started out with four plows, and by 7:30 a.m., we had another couple of employees come in, so we put another plow on the road,” said Harwood Heights Superintendent Tom Wolf.
Determining when to deploy plows is an art.
If the National Weather Service can’t pinpoint the time of the snow arrival, Wolf relies on police officers on patrol to call Public Works when the road starts becoming treacherous.
In addition to plowing streets, Norridge also plows alleys, said Director Mark Lymperopulos.
The plows still were working more than 12 hours later.
“Our crews are on 24-hour call to do whatever the conditions call for,” Lymperopulos said.
During the 2011 Ground Hog Day snow, crews were on the streets continuously, for 72 hours straight, on alternating shifts, Wolf noted.
A lack of salt will not be a problem.
Both Norridge and Harwood Heights take advantage of a state salt purchasing pool that this year awarded the salt provision contract to Chicago-based Morton Salt at a cost of $59 per ton.
A few years back, salt was going for more than $100 per ton.
“You pay because you need it,” Wolf said.
The village has 150 tons left over from last year, and is expecting a delivery of 200 tons, of which it will have to take at least 80 percent.
“We have the space to store it,” Wolf said.
Currently the village covers its salt with a tarp.
Storing salt outdoors does not affect its ability to melt snow, according to Wolf.
“Look at Chicago,” he said. “They store their salt outdoors.”
Some municipalities use salt to which beet juice has been added; Wolf is skeptical.
“I’ve seen it used in other towns, and I can’t tell a difference,” he said.
Norridge also still is using about 200 tons of salt from last year’s allotment.
Lymperopulos said plows would be out to clear the streets from curb to curb.
He also noted street sweeping parking restrictions remain in effect all year.
“We have a regular, yearly maintenance schedule,” he explained.
The parking restrictions allow Public Works crews to continue to sweep streets to keep sewer openings clear and to make repairs to pavement.
The restrictions also are what allow crews to clear streets of snow curb-to-curb.
With the warmer winter weather, Harwood Heights Public Works is monitoring water pipe breaks.
“We haven’t had the snow cover to protect the ground,” Wolf said.
But old water pipes are prone to damage regardless of the season.
“Pipes are just as susceptible during the rain/drought summer as they are during the winter freeze/thaw,” he said.