Saturday, January 11, 2014

Mean Streets

It's a sloppy mess out there, as anyone who tried to walk or drive on Friday night can tell you.  We're glad it's above freezing, really we are.  But all the snow that fell in the past ten days has to go somewhere.  If you live near a catch basin or a drain, please take a minute to go out and make sure it's draining so all the snow and slush has somewhere to go.  Like away.  If it's covered, take a rake or broom and try to clear away whatever's blocking the top of the drain, or call 311 to report it.  There are 250,000 drains in the city, so clearing it yourself is the fastest way to go.

Ald. Pawar has an explanation for the sad condition of the side streets in his Friday newsletter:

"This has been quite a week. Since January 1, 2014, we have received nearly two feet of snow and two of the coldest days in our City's history. Since this past Monday, we've heard from hundreds of you via email, phone and social media about the condition of our side streets following the snowfall. I know you are frustrated - I am too. 

The truth is nearly every side street in our ward has been plowed multiple times since 5am this Monday. Yet, many of these streets might not look plowed, especially in comparison to the arterial streets. I hear you on that. Why don't they look plowed? A center ridge of snow, that is on many side streets, was created when a base layer of snow turned to ice between Sunday and Monday. Tire tracks from the plows and cars wore down some snow on the sides but the center ridge remained as ice. While the plows have been able to chip away at the center ridge, the extreme temperatures made it impossible for the plows to remove the very thick ice and rendered the salt useless. 

So, even though City plow trucks made multiple passes down our side streets with salt, the center ridges of snow could not start to break down until temperatures got warmer on Thursday. This is why there was such a stark difference in road conditions between arterial and side streets. 

This is why side streets across the City of Chicago may not look plowed and the arterial streets were plowed down to the asphalt. The only thing that could have prevented the conditions on side streets would have been to pull plow crews from arterials sooner than Sunday, January 5th. Would we have been better off with arterials plowed to a lesser quality to have better conditions on our side-streets? I am interested in your feedback.

Finally, I know many are still skeptical of the snow plow situation even after providing this explanation. I know many of you are additionally frustrated after dealing with a week of snow and extreme temperatures. I hear you on that as well. 

I am frustrated too. It would be easy for me to place blame on the Department of Streets and Sanitation but I know almost every driver has been working 16 hour shifts since January 1st and Snow Command has been working 24/7. Garbage pick-up was suspended so all resources and crews could be completely dedicated to snow removal operations. The men and women from Streets and Sanitation have worked through the most dangerous conditions we've seen in decades to remove snow. 

The fact remains that plows were working so hard and for so many hours in a row in extreme conditions that some broke down, salt spreaders needed repair, and when equipment was functioning, the efforts were compromised due to the thick ice until Thursday. Also, please know that the plows are currently out in full capacity everywhere in the ward and will continuing to operate throughout the evening until every side street is plowed as well as possible.

Please know that residential garbage collection is behind due to the suspension of services Monday and the snowfall.  Crews are working through tomorrow to collect all of the garbage."


  1. Thank you for this feedback. It's too bad the land owners of the properties that are located on the northeast side and northwest side of Wilson and Kenmore couldn't remove the snow there.

  2. Wilson is part of the SSA, which is responsible for clearing snow over 2" from sidewalks in the business district. They made at least three rounds with their sidewalk snow plow. You can contact Uptown United about the SSA, as they administer it. Also, you can go to and file a complaint under "Snow Removal from Sidewalks."