South Holland village President Don DeGraff said he thinks this winter was the worst he has experienced.
Worse than the significant snowfalls of 1967 or 1979 that left the Chicago area shut down for stretches of time, he said. Even worse than the 2011 winter that had one storm dump nearly 2 feet of snow on the metropolitan area in a 24-hour period.
This year’s combination of repeated snowstorms and Arctic-like temperatures created weather conditions throughout the south suburbs that Crete Public Works Superintendent Phil Hameister described as, “a pain in the butt.”
Public works officials throughout the area reported using more road salt than usual, along with incurring much overtime for their road crews who often had to cope with the brunt of the severe weather in an effort to keep streets clear so that local residents could continue to move about from place to place.
“We did what we had to do for the residents,” Lynwood Public Works Director Bob Myers said.
The memory of this winter’s storms is such that local officials are hesitant to proclaim the season over.
“We haven’t put our figures together yet because we want to wait until we’re sure the snow is over,” Myers said.
Hameister concurred, saying for the benefit of Crete residents, “I still have a little bit of (road) salt left if we get hit again.”
In South Holland, officials said earlier this year that public works crews had used 1,800 tons of road salt, 2,000 gallons of calcium chlorate and 3,000 gallons of gasoline to keep the streets clear.
But that was back when the total snowfall for metropolitan Chicago was just more than 50 inches for the winter, compared to now where it is nearly 80 inches — making this likely the third-heaviest winter snowfall recorded in the area. The average Chicago winter gets 38 inches of snow, according to the National Weather Service.
Hameister said Crete went through about 1,250 tons of road salt this winter, up from the usual 1,000 tons.
In Lynwood, public works officials say they used about 1,450 tons of salt — more than the usual 800 tons. But Myers said that sounds worse than it actually is because the past two winters were relatively mild.
There also is the cost of labor for public works crews. Village boards and city councils across the south suburbs are going to have to cope in coming weeks with financial figures showing them over budget for their snow removal.
Hameister said that in Crete alone, the amount of money spent to pay the crews for their efforts is about 300 percent over budget.
Hameister said the effort was complicated by the fact that many of the snowstorms seem to have fallen on weekends when the village typically would have had fewer people on duty.
“It means they all wind up getting overtime for their work,” he said. “But it had to be done.”