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The winter storm system that hit California with rain, snow and mudslides last week left a thick blanket of white in Evanston as it moved through the Midwest, developing into a nor’easter off the coast of the Northeastern U.S.

An Evanston snowplow prepares to head out for the 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. shift on Jan. 31. All photos by Heidi Randhava

Evanston’s Public Works Agency was well prepared for the potent weather system that produced more than a foot of heavy, lake enhanced snow on Jan. 30-31, the largest snowfall since Nov. 20-21, 2015, according to data from the National Weather Service.

A day crew and a night crew of snow plow operators, each working 12-hour shifts, were at work to ensure that Evanston streets remained safe and  accessible.

“They sometimes cross over into each other’s shifts, just to be able to have trucks out in the street during a shift change,” Public Services Bureau Chief Edgar Cano told the RoundTable.

Mr. Cano, who oversees the City’s snow-and-ice program, said he receives daily forecasts, with storm warnings that include the number of inches of snow predicted, the start and end time, and the wind speed and direction.           

“That, in addition to watching every newscast we possibly can – we take all that into account to assign a start time. We try to get it as close to the start of the storm as possible, without coming in late, but not coming in too early – with just enough time to get ready to load our trucks if they’re not already loaded, and just hit the road,” he said.

Mr. Cano added that Evanston presents some unique challenges for snow removal due to a number of narrow streets and on-street parking.

“What residents can do to help us is to follow the parking restrictions that are posted every time we have a 2- or 4-inch snowfall, depending on if it’s a snow route or residential. … It’s going to be to their benefit if we can get down the street and provide a safe parking space for their vehicles,” said Mr. Cano.

Equipment maintenance is another important part of ensuring that snow and ice are cleared from the City’s streets.

Snowplows come through the shop for inspection by City of Evanston mechanics.

“There are fluid checks and general inspection of the vehicles – plows, salt spreaders – to make sure everything is operating the way it should be. We do visual inspections; if we see anything, we repair it,” City of Evanston equipment mechanic Joe Wazny told the RoundTable on Jan. 31.

Snow plowing is particularly important in weather conditions like the recent winter storm, which was the second significant snowfall in less than a week in the Chicago area. But even if the Chicago area receives just the normal February total snowfall of 9.1 inches, Evanston snowplows will be navigating the City’s streets in the coming weeks, making winter easier and safer for Evanstonians.

“Our staff worked so hard during the storm, and they did a tremendous job. They keep the residents and everybody who even drives through Evanston moving,” said Mr. Cano.

Heidi Randhava

Heidi Randhava is an award winning reporter who has a deep commitment to community engagement and service. She has written for the Evanston RoundTable since 2016.