Tri States Public Radio Staff
Fri December 4, 2009
Cities Prepare For Winter
Tri State Region – The beginning of December has not been kind to the Tri-State Region over the past few years. In 2006, Macomb was slammed with more than a foot of snow, prompting the closure of Western Illinois University. Just last year, a crippling ice storm passed through, downing hundreds of trees and leaving some areas without power for days.
Is Macomb's Public Works Department equipped to handle such disasters this year? Operations Manager Jim Teater says "yes."
He says the city has about 550 tons of salt on hand right now, but will likely go through 1,400 tons before the season is over. Teater says the city's plows and other snow removal equipment have been prepped and are ready to go.
Snow removal has been less than stellar in Macomb over the past few years. It took the city weeks to clear the streets after the 2006 storm, with many streets not getting any attention at all for most of the day after the storm. While the city did what it could to combat the ice last year, drivers outside the city's main thoroughfares found dangerous conditions.
Teater says the city is prepared if such a storm hits this year.
"We have the ability of contacting other agencies for additional equipment if we need that," says Teater. "But I think we'll be pretty well capable of handling what comes along this year."
Macomb is one of several cities in the area to add a few thousand gallons of beet juice, at a cost of roughly $1 per gallon, to its salt supply. The liquid acts as an organic de-icing accelerant. Teater says it reduces salt consumption, makes salt work in lower temperatures, and makes a salt spread last for two to three days.
Despite Teater's confidence, he says he's still praying for a dry, mild winter.
Many cities across the entire state of Illinois had problems with salt supplies last winter. Many ran out, and could not get additional supplies through state contracts. So they paid a lot of extra money out of pocket to get salt from the private sector.
Teater says salt supplies are high this year and the prices are reasonable. He says it should cost cities about half what it did last year to keep salt stocked.
Galesburg is also prepared for the winter driving season. Public Works director Larry Cox says his crews can clear the entire city in about 10-12 hours, giving clearing priorities to snow emergency routes.
Cox says Galesburg has about 900 tons of salt on hand, but last year went through more than 2,000 tons. Galesburg, like many cities in Illinois, was forced to go to private sources to replenish salt supplies.
To listen to the full conversation with Jim Teater, click play on the audio button above.