‘Payback for Last Year': City Prepares for Snowy, Cold Winter Season

With Chicago set to see its first taste of winter weather and possibly the first snow of the season this weekend, city officials say they’re preparing for a “more active season ” as "payback" for last year's unusually mild winter.

Commissioner Charles Williams with the Department of Streets and Sanitation said the city is anticipating anywhere from 43 to 50 inches of snow this upcoming season. The average snowfall in one season for Chicago sits at around 36.1 inches, Williams said.

Included in the predictions are at least nine “events” in December and about 14 in January, one of which could be reminiscent of the historic Super Bowl Sunday blizzard of 2015.

Wiliams said at least one large snow event of about 12 inches or more could hit sometime around Super Bowl Sunday once again.

The city is also expected to see a colder-than-normal January and February.

“It is payback for last year,” Williams said. “It was a very mild winter last year, we had below normal snow. Not this season.”

Williams said while only 100,000 tons of salt were used during last winter, but the department already has 374,000 tons stocked up for the upcoming season. The department is also adding 20 new salt spreaders to its fleet of 300 plows and salt spreaders.

Officials urged residents to prepare for winter weather conditions now, rather than waiting until the snow arrives.

“As we know, Chicago weather can change quickly, affecting driving conditions as well as efforts to stay safe and warm,” said Rich Guidice, director of operations for the Office of Emergency Management and Communications.

The Department of Aviation announced a new website for travelers whose flights may be affected by winter weather. The website, flychicago.com/flightstatus, will offer information on any cancellations and real-time news on winter delays.

In the city, residents can also track snow plows in real-time to see which streets are being plowed when. 

The city's winter parking ban begins Dec. 1 and remains in effect until April 1, regardless of snow. The ban is in place from 3 a.m. to 7 a.m. on 107 miles of Chicago's streets. A map of all streets included in the ban can be found here.

Authorities also reminded residents to shovel their sidewalks and around fire hydrants and check on their elderly neighbors in the event of a winter storm.

Peoples Gas suggests the following winter weather safety tips for residents:

  • Regular inspection and servicing of your boiler/furnace will ensure it is running safely and
  • efficiently.
  • Keep the area around natural gas appliances clutter free to avoid a fire hazard; never store
  • flammables near a furnace.
  • Ensure natural gas appliances are correctly flued and have the correct ventilation to avoid
  • carbon monoxide (CO) to build up in living areas.
  • When lit, make sure the flames are blue; a yellow flame could indicate the presence of CO.
  • Understand the dangers and symptoms of carbon monoxide, and have CO detectors installed
  • and test regularly.

Anyone in need of warmth or transportation to a warming center can also call 311.

“Times like these can bring out the best in people as they help one another deal with the weather and in that spirit everyone can lend a helping hand to neighbors in need throughout the city,” Guidice said.

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