Snow blankets county: Drifting creates challenge for area snowplow drivers

Published: Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014 5:30 a.m.CDT
(Rob Winner –
DeKalb resident Tim Schulz removes snow from his driveway with a snow blower on Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. “Incidentally, I've found that listening to The Byrds is great music to remove snow to,” said Schulz.

DeKALB – The ringing in of the new year wasn’t so pleasant for some local drivers Wednesday.

In a 24-hour span from 3 p.m. Tuesday to 3 p.m. Wednesday, the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office reported helping 18 cars in ditches. There also were four property damage-related car accidents and seven personal injury car accidents, said Gary Dumdie, DeKalb Sheriff’s chief deputy.

None of the accidents involved drivers sustaining major injuries, Dumdie said.

Nathan Schwartz, DeKalb County engineer, said a full force of crews worked since 6 a.m. Wednesday – despite it being a federal holiday – dealing with drifting, dry snow.

“It [was] certainly a battle out there,” he said. “It [was] light snow, so that means with any sort of wind, snow was drifting and blowing onto the roads.”

It takes Schwartz’s crews about three hours to make a full round to clear roads. By the time they got back to the beginning of their route, it gave plenty of time for snow to accumulate or drift back onto the road, he said.

The National Weather Service reported between 6 to 8 inches of snow fell between Tuesday and Wednesday.

Mark Espy, DeKalb assistant director of public works, said this was the worst storm so far this season.

His crews were working since 4 a.m. Wednesday, and all the crews were out: 16 large trucks, two medium-sized trucks and four pickup trucks.

He said the duration of the snowfall made it difficult for snowplow drivers. It also didn’t make it any easier that he was running low on salt, he said.

“This storm just brings you to your knees,” he said.

Fred Busse, Sycamore public works director, said his crews normally let some snow build up before they go out to avoid continuously scraping little amounts of snow off the street, he said.

He said snowplow drivers don’t have an easy job.

“We only have 12 trucks. We can’t be in every neighborhood every 10 to 15 minutes,” he said. “It could be four hours until you get through everything.”

Busse said people should expect this kind of weather in northern Illinois. His crews will continue to focus on plowing the main streets first, he said.

“You’ve got to understand there’s going be some snowpacked streets,” Busse said. “If someone has to drive out two or three blocks to get out to the main road, at least they get out.”

Local residents understand that snowplow crews are tied up. Sycamore resident Andy Sharp used his snowblower three times Wednesday, so he knows how much crews have to work to keep the entire county’s roads clear.

“There are only so many trucks,” he said. “I think they’re doing OK.”

DeKalb resident Jean Greensley, a fan of the winter season and cold weather, said residents should learn to deal with the weather.

“It’s winter,” she said. “It’s supposed to be this way.”

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