Officials: “We’re in a Period of Extreme Weather”

First snow, then extreme cold. City officials say they're prepared but urged residents to be cautious.

As a winter storm continued to dump several inches of snow on the Chicago area, city officials urged residents to take precautions.

The Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation said Thursday that 373 snow plows and salt spreaders were out on city streets, and crews were working to keep up with continued snowfall.

“We’ve prepare for this,” said Commissioner Charles Williams. “The unusual thing about these systems is the frequency with which they come. It does tax your crews.”

Williams said crews focused their initial efforts on the city's main roads after nearly a half foot of snow fell Tuesday and Wednesday.  A lake effect was expected to drop “1 to several inches of snow per hour for several hours” Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.

"As long as it’s snowing, we stay on the main streets so that emergency vehicles have a safe passage through the city along with residents,” said Commissioner Charles Williams. “Once the snow has actually stopped and the system has moved past the city we then divert our attention to side streets and we clear them.”

Some residents were not so pleased with the snow removal efforts, however.

“They have done a terrible job clearing streets,” Latrice Jackson said on Facebook. “I’m very disappointed.”

Pamela Berk said the snow removal efforts are “the worst [she’s] seen in years.”

“And you can’t blame it on the weather, we’ve had more snow than this before,” she commented on Facebook.

Other residents weren’t so critical.

“It’s been snowing for days and plows are out everywhere,” Kim Krauss Bagnole commented. “Why not worry about how you can help out. Make sure your sidewalks are cleared and your cars are off the streets so the plows can get through.”

Once the snow was managed, city officials said they'd turn their attention to a blast of extreme cold expected to send temperature highs dipping below zero Monday.

“We’re in a period of extreme weather right now,” said Gary Schenkel, executive director of the Office of Emergency Management in Chicago. “These are changes that we have to deal with and we’re well-prepared for it.”

The deputy commissioner for Preparedness and Emergency Response at the city's Department of Public Health, Dr. Suzet McKinney, urged residents to avoid unnecessary trips outside, work slowly and take frequent breaks when shoveling snow, don’t try to lift more snow than you can handle, and wear several layers.

Be sure to cover your face, ears and hands, McKinney said.

City officials said residents in need of heat should call 311 to report a loss of heat or to get transportation to a nearby warming center.

Williams said the city is prepared to send salt trucks with a beet juice mixture that can help salt work more effectively in the extreme cold.

Ronald Ester with the Chicago Transit Authority said the agency is pre-heating trains and buses that are not being used to make sure they stay functioning.

"It's a collaborative effort whenever we get into situations like this," Schenkel said.

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