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Snowplow Crews Labor To Clear Snow From C-U Streets

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Looking south on Vine Street in Urbana, as snowfall resumed on Monday afternoon.

URBANA – Local governments in the Champaign-Urbana area all have crews out, working to clear streets of the snow that fell on central Illinois Monday and Monday night.

Public Works staff with both Champaign and Urbana began work on keeping the roads clear on Sunday night, during the first wave of snowfall.  Crews give priority to primary and secondary roads in their cities, before going on to clear residential streets. Shifts were scheduled around the clock — although heavy snowfall and winds forced Champaign County and Mahomet crews to pause Monday night, due to visibility problems.

The University of Illinois also had employees at work, clearing the Urbana-Champaign campus’ 23 miles of road and 147 parking lots.

The National Weather Service reported 7.5 inches of snow in southwest Champaign, and 7.9 inches in souteast Urbana. The weather service reported around seven inches of snow fall in nearby Ogden and Tuscola on Monday and Monday night, with accompanying snow depths of around ten inches.

The snow was accompanied by near-zero temperatures, which are forecast to continue during the nighttime for a few days. Kris Koester, a spokesperson for Champaign’s Public Works Department, says that when it’s that cold, they can’t use anti-icing chemicals like salt and calcium chloride on roads and bridges.

“The temperatures right now are too cold for us to be able to use anything like that safely,” said Koester. “It would just create refreezing, which is more dangerous. So for the next few days, people will notice snow in the streets. It will be plowed snow, as far down as we can get it. But with some of these below-zero temperatures, it’ll be hard snow-pack.”

And that means clearing the snow away may take a little longer than usual. Vince Gustafson with Urbana’s Public Works Department says another reason is that cold temperatures have resulted in a dry snow, easily blown around by blustery winds.

 “So it’s going to take them a little longer to get through when the roads are blowing shut behind them,” said Gustafson. “So I would say this time more like 24 to 48 hours to really get through everything once the snow has stopped.

Both Gustafson and Koester ask motorists to keep their distance from any plow trucks they see on the road.

Especially when the wind’s blowing and it’s at night, it’s very difficult to see,” said Gustafson. “People don’t always realize how much is actually going on inside that plow truck —- trying to focus in on the road, watching your material application rates, just keeping safe.”

“If you do come across a plow, we ask that you give them some room,” said Koester. “You don’t know what’s in front of them, that they may have to stop or turn.”

In addition to city snowplows, property owners are obliged to clear their sidewalks in certain parts of Champaign and Urbana after significant snowfalls. The city of Urbana announced Tuesday that property owners in their Downtown, University and Philo Road districts must clear their walks of snow and ice by noon on Wednesday, February 17, or else the city may clear them at the owner’s expense. The city of Champaign has set a similar deadline of 11 a.m. on Saturday, February 20, for clearing snow and ice from sidewalks in its University and Downtown areas.  

(This story was updated to include details about the Champaign Sidewalk Snow Removal Ordinance. – JM 2/18/21)

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Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows has been covering local news for WILL Radio since 2000, with occasional periods as local host for Morning Edition and All Things Considered and a stint hosting WILL's old Focus talk show. He was previously a reporter at public radio station WCBU in Peoria.

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