Snow Removal: Frequently Received Complaints
By Village Manager Phil Kiraly
Several winter storms hit Glencoe in full force last week. During those storms, the Village Manager’s Office staff worked closely with Public Works to communicate our snow removal crews’ progress—first as they plowed streets, then in clearing sidewalks and finally in pushing back piled snow from curbs and street corners. Using our website, social media and Glencoe CONNECT we quickly pushed out winter storm safety tips, program reminders and an area-specific notice about garbage and recycling collection delays. Some things get lost in translation, however, and snow removal efforts often come with quite a few questions, and sometimes quite a few “complaints.” We recognize that some of these complaints might be resolved if we took a few moments to explain the Village’s snow and ice removal process.
While our snow and ice removal process is methodical, each snow event is like a snowflake—no two are the same. From temperature, wind direction and speed, to snow fall rate, duration, total accumulation and available daylight—our crews adapt to each snow event. To help educate the community on our specific snow and ice removal practices, and in the spirit of having a bit of fun, we’ve compiled this list of “Frequently Received Complaints.” We hope this list is helpful to you!
Frequent Received Complaints:
- Complaint: Question: Hey – I’m trying to sleep! Why are plows going past my house at 2 a.m.?
- Answer: When we are in a snow removal operation, the Village’s Public Works Crews work round-the-clock, often in two, rotating 12-hour shifts to ensure that streets are in safe condition. This regularly means working in the overnight hours to make sure streets are ready for the next morning’s rush hour. Working overnight helps crews clear streets more quickly and effectively (not having to dodge traffic). This also ensures that our Public Safety has continuous access to all homes in Glencoe.
- Complaint: I never saw crews put down salt on my street. What’s going on? Why is my street not salted during each snow event?
- Answer: While salt is helpful for preventing snow accumulation and ice patches on streets when used, overuse of salt can actually be harmful. Our policy is to control salt usage to reduce its impact on infrastructure, equipment and the environment, while still maintaining safe winter roadway conditions. Even still, in any season we go through 600-1,000 tons of salt.
Also, dropping salt while a snow removal operation is underway is wasteful as the salt just gets plowed off the streets the next time a plow comes through to clear snow. We are careful to salt certain areas — like downtown, intersections and hills — even during snow events, as those areas are more likely to cause problems. In addition to this, Village crews pre-treat high traffic areas, hills and curves with a special brine made of calcium chloride to melt the initial snowfall and help prevent snow from packing.
- Complaint: Hey! I just cleared my driveway but the Village’s plow pushed snow back onto it. Can’t this be avoided?
- Answer: Depending on the amount of snowfall during an event, Village plow trucks may need to make several passes to ensure that streets are fully open, curb-to-curb. When snowfall rates are high, Village trucks make one or two passes to keep streets open and return to plowing streets curb-to-curb when the snowfall rates have diminished or stopped. Please consider this before you begin to clear your driveway. Avoid the “second shovel” by removing snow from your driveway to the “downstream” side, in the direction of traffic (the right side of your driveway as you face the street) to help prevent some of this. Clearing the left side of your driveway to create a “pocket” for plowed snow can also help. (See diagram below).
- Complaint: I just saw the street next to mine get plowed, but the crews skipped my cul-de-sac. Why does it take longer for my cul-de-sac to get cleared?
- Answer: Just like a hospital emergency room triages patients, our Public Works crews triage streets – treating those with the greatest need (a.k.a. the highest amounts of traffic) first. Heavily traveled streets called “Priority 1 Streets” (such as Green Bay, Dundee, Sheridan, Vernon, South and Park) are cleared and salted first. Lesser traveled streets (most side streets) are called “Priority 2 Streets” and are cleared next; on these streets, salt is used primarily at intersections, curves and hills. Cul-de-sacs and dead ends are generally the least traveled streets and are typically cleared last.
- Complaint: There’s too much snow to get into or out of my driveway during a snow fall! Why won’t the Village let me park on the street?
- Answer: First off, Village Code requires that “no person shall park any vehicle on Village streets during a ‘snow emergency.’ A snow emergency is defined as an accumulation of snow or ice two inches or more during a 24 hour period.” This ordinance is in place for a good reason. If you’re familiar with Chicago neighborhoods after a major snowfall, you’ll understand why we need streets to be cleared of all cars. (Anyone have some garden chairs so I can call “dibs” on the spot I shoveled out!?). Generally speaking, parking on streets is detrimental to snow removal operations as it keeps Village plows from clearing curb-to-curb. It also narrows street widths, making it more difficult for snow removal equipment to navigate streets safely.
- Complaint: My sidewalk isn’t cleared yet but the snow came down two days ago! Why do crews sometimes take several days to get to my sidewalk?
- Answer: The Village has over 70 miles of sidewalk which makes clearing all residential sidewalks a process that generally takes a few days. Sidewalks (outside of downtown and school routes) are generally the final piece of the snow-clearing puzzle, with priority given to major streets, followed by side-streets, cul-de-sac/dead ends and then sidewalks.
- Compliant: I can’t find a spot next to my favorite store downtown. Why does the Village pile snow in some of the downtown parking stalls? And why is downtown cleaned at night?
- Answer: Clearing snow from the business district is an arduous task. Parked cars, traffic and pedestrians move about the downtown area 16 to 20 hours each day. That leaves a limited time frame to get the streets, sidewalks and parking stalls cleared of snow before the morning rush to get coffee at Starbucks or the Glencoe Roast. To expedite clean-up efforts, the Village has designated areas for piling snow which allows Public Works staff efficiently clear snow from 95% of the downtown surface area. Snow piles are eventually loaded out and dumped at a remote site.
I’m very grateful to our Public Works crews for the exemplary work they did through a very long week of snowfall. The season’s not yet over, though, and hopefully this information will be helpful to you in understanding the whens/whys/hows of the Village’s snow removal process. Should you have more questions — or some more complaints! — about the snow removal process, please contact the Public Works Department at (847) 835-4111. Of course compliments are always appreciated as well!
And don’t forget to update your contact information in Glencoe CONNECT so we can reach you with tips and service delays the next time we have a major winter storm!