Snow Removal Rocks

Snow Removal Rocks

February 8, 2011

We are, by nature, ungrateful folks. Here in Chicago, we just experienced the No. 3 snowfall in history, lovingly named Snowmaggedon. Most of us didn’t have to work that day, which allowed us ample opportunity to clean out our personal driveways and maybe even have a snowball fight with the kids.

Chicagoans poke fun at our neighbors to the south who shut down after an inch of snow. This city and its ’burbs were up and running the next day, we brag, after 21 inches of snow fell over a 20-hour period. (A Chicago Tribune gallery of images chronicles the storm.)

But it wasn’t by our own efforts; it was the equipment. What differentiates us from other metro areas is 1) substantial mounds of salt, and 2) equipment to move the snow. We have Class 8 trucks with winged snow blades on the front and a dump body full of salt on the back. We have wheel loaders and skid steers. (ENR’s Tudor Hampton did a nice piece on one of our snow-removal operators.)

Our DOT, Toll Authority, county and municipal fleets have trucks parked ready to roll before the first flake hits, then keep it rolling (usually with operators on 12-hour shifts) until the snow is cleared. And for anyone who has ever set foot in the terminals at O’Hare International Airport, you can imagine the equipment required to clear those runways.

How many folks, though, took a moment to acknowledge the hard-working equipment operators cleaning up the mess? How many of the men and women received a wave or a thankful smile? In my mind, those operators kept us going.

Behind the operators are equipment managers who ensure those machines are ready when the inevitable hits. In the Snow Belt, machines have to be ready to work 12 months a year. When the wind’s blowing snow at 50 mph in 25-degree weather, a truck or wheel loader can’t pull over until it calms.

I, for one, am grateful for those who cleared our way during Snowmaggedon. Well done.