Brutal Cold, Lack Of Sun, Traffic Hamper Snow Clearing In Elk Grove – Journal & Topics Media Group

Elk Grove Village snowplow clearing streets in 2018. (Journal file photo)

Elk Grove Village Public Works officials planned for 17 inches of snow, brutal cold, and high winds in last week’s storm. Winds were intense and temperatures dropped to eight below, with wind chills of 30 below, but the snow only measured two inches.

Public works salting and snowplow crews were out working 12-hour shifts from 4 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 22 into late Friday, Dec. 23, then came back at 8 a.m. Saturday for several last morning clean up runs, Elk Grove Public Works Director Colby Basham said.

Besides the eight below air temperature, Basham said Elk Grove Village saw sustained winds of 25 to 30 mph, with wind gusts of between 50 and 60 mph that blew snow into drifts.

Basham said the subzero cold combined with overcast skies and a lack of traffic on Thursday, Dec. 22, and Friday, Dec. 23, hampered efforts to clear the streets.

Road salt loses its effectiveness at about 15 degrees above zero. Basham said the village uses a liquid solvent called Beet Heet, combining calcium chloride with a beet juice product, coating salt as it comes from the spreader on the salt truck.

Basham said coating salt in the solution can lower the temperature in which salt is effective to 0 degrees, or lower, which was still above the coldest temperatures last week.

Adding to the effectiveness of salt is traffic, grinding the salt on the road into the ice and snow to break it up, and sun. Basham said there was a perfect storm of conditions working against snow clearing crews, with cold temperatures, an overcast sky, not letting the sun peek out, and sustained high winds until the sun came out.

Besides clearing village streets, Elk Grove Village entered into an intergovernmental agreement in November to clear four lineal miles of road in unincorporated Elk Grove Township, as the township did away with its road district last year before the winter.

The unincorporated area of Elk Grove Township is divided into several sections. The city of Des Plaines and village of Mount Prospect also have similar intergovernmental agreements to plow sections of unincorporated Elk Grove near their municipal borders.

Basham said village crews also did some clearing of state and county roads the village is not responsible to clear. He said some residents may only know they are in Elk Grove Village, not which roads should be cleared by Cook County or state of Illinois plows.

Elk Grove Village Fire Chief Richard Mikel said the extreme cold caused an uptick in calls. The chief said frozen pipes in sprinkler systems or water leaking into dry sprinkler systems, often used in loading docks and other areas in colder parts of buildings, can cause alarm activations and sometimes sprinkler head activations, all of which ring through automated alarms.

Mikel said a typical day firefighters might be dispatched to respond to 15 calls for service. He said Friday, firefighters responded to 25 calls for service, seven of which were frozen sprinkler pipes.

Mikel said there were other regular calls, but there were no major fires during the cold snap.

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