Behind-the-Scenes: Snow and Ice Control Operations

Behind-the-Scenes: Snow and Ice Control Operations

By Village Manager Phil Kiraly
Exactly a year ago, I began a series delving into the internal operations of the Village that affect our everyday lives. Given that winter is coming, I’m sharing an overview of the Village’s snow and ice control operations. As the goal of this series is to inspire conversations, please do not hesitate to reach out to me with any questions, comments or suggestions for the snow and ice removal program or any other Village initiative or service.

Program Background

The goal of the Village’s snow and ice removal program is to have all Glencoe streets cleared and pavement in a safe, passable condition within four to eight hours following the end of a snowfall event. During the 2018-19 winter season, Public Works staff dedicated 5,834 employee hours to snow and ice control, making it the most time-intensive service provided by the Public Works Department. It’s important to note that this total number of hours doesn’t include the time our fleet operations team spends preparing (and repairing) the fleet of 20 different pieces of equipment used for snow and ice events or time spent by department’s supervisors who oversee the operations.

To remain prepared for any weather that may occur, Public Works and Public Safety monitor winter conditions, and the Public Works Streets Division utilizes anti-icing equipment before an anticipated winter storm event. In any given year, 1,000-1,400 tons of salt is used to help keep streets and intersections safe. When hazardous conditions develop, the Public Works team mobilizes the on-call snow and ice removal crews.

When snow and ice removal operations start, major arterial and “priority one” streets are cleared first: these include Dundee, Green Bay and Sheridan Roads. After crews attend to arterial streets and priority one streets, secondary residential streets are plowed. Then clearing of culs-de-sac and the alleys take priority once residential routes have been cleared. In total, Public Works Maintenance Equipment Operators (MEOs) clear 46.5 miles of road lanes. You may be tempted to think that the same snow plow operator is assigned to the same residential route through the entire winter every year; although only one MEO clears a residential route at a time, at least three different MEOs are assigned to the same route every winter.

Public Works crews are also responsible for clearing snow-covered streets and sidewalks in downtown Glencoe and around the train station. After business hours (usually overnight), a thorough cleanup of the downtown commences, as snow is hauled from downtown to various snow storage locations. As for residential sidewalks, Public Works crews only clear these sidewalks after a snowfall of three or more inches using special sidewalk plows. Priority is given to sidewalks along major street routes and around schools. Interesting fact: Clearing sidewalks can be difficult because the exact location of a sidewalk is not always apparent to operators. To assist, inconspicuous markers are installed when a sidewalk abruptly ends. You may be able to spot some around the Village.

Winter Tips and Tricks for Safety

Clearing all residential sidewalks generally takes a few days, and it is Village policy not to salt sidewalks. With that being that said, we realize that among our snow removal efforts, sidewalk plowing is not always our most effective. In the coming year, we will be reviewing ways to improve or modify this service.

Our snow removal crews shared the following insights with me, and I thought I’d pass them along:

  • Assume a snow plow driver cannot see you: Be aware that operators in large trucks or equipment may have difficulty seeing pedestrians or drivers, especially in wintery conditions or in the dark. Please avoid walking in the streets after dark during snow removal operations.
  • Maintain a safe driving distance from snow plow trucks: When driving, keep a minimum of 70 feet, or five car lengths, between you and snow removal equipment to prevent collisions. Remember that the snow plow trucks do not exceed 25 miles per hour and may stop more frequently.
  • Walk like a penguin: Slippery conditions are sometimes unavoidable on both public and private ways. When walking, shuffle your feet, keep arms out and knees loose to avoid falling. Also, consider sensible footwear in winter conditions.
  • Wait to clear your driveway, if possible: During heavy snowfalls, plows may complete as many as three or four passes to clear snow, resulting in snow being pushed across driveways several times. Also remove snow from your driveway to the “downstream” side (the right side of your driveway as you face the street).
  • Observe Village winter parking restrictions: Parking on Village Streets during a snow emergency (any accumulation of two or more inches of new snow or ice in a 24-hour period) is prohibited.

Stay safe out there this winter!