Snow strategy: Keeping the streets clear

Published: Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014 7:51 a.m. CDT
(Sandy Bressner –
St. Charles Public Works employee Jim Kunches loads salt into a truck at the city's public works facility on Devereaux Way.

Keeping streets clear of snow and ice requires more than salt and plows.

Those who help keep roadways clear in and around the Tri-Cities say other factors – including road temperature and the timing of predicted snow – affect their plans.

“The key to us fighting the winter season is that we realize each event is unique, and we adapt our strategy to that event,” said Chris Adesso, public services manager for the city of St. Charles.

For Elburn, which is limited by equipment and manpower, plowing snow becomes a timing issue, said John Nevenhoven, public works supervisor.

“If we have a half inch, it doesn’t make sense to mobilize everyone,” he said, noting he can put seven trucks on the road at once.

With heavier snowfalls, Nevenhoven said, his team will consider the anticipated start time, its expected duration and when it will be the most intense. Units are deployed accordingly, he said.

He prefers snowfalls that are shorter in duration than those lasting several hours because he only has one set of drivers, he said.

After eight, nine or 10 hours, he said, “I have to pull them off the street.”

Other than applying road salt when ice is expected, Elburn doesn’t have equipment to pretreat streets, Nevenhoven said.

St. Charles, however, can pretreat roads with brine – a mixture of salt, water and a commercial product that lowers the temperature range for which the brine is effective – several days before a snowstorm, but only in certain conditions, Adesso said.

The substance isn’t used when rain is forecasted, when pavement temperatures are too cold for it to be effective and, he said, when residual salt is on the roads.

Three vehicles can apply brine, which is put on as many streets as possible, Adesso said, noting they almost always start with the main thoroughfares.

“It helps prevent a bonding of snow to the pavement surface so we can actually plow it off,” he said.

In Geneva, the city has 12 large trucks with plows and salting capabilities and 10 smaller trucks with plows to supplement the larger trucks, communications coordinator Kevin Stahr said.

He said Geneva uses rock salt pre-wetted with liquid calcium chloride.

“That is the equivalent of putting salt on steroids to make it work right away and melt the snow and ice,” Stahr said. “It also reduces the need for frequently repeated applications.”

Plowing begins once snow accumulations reach one inch, Stahr said. And, like other communities, he said, Geneva concentrates its snow removal efforts on more heavily traveled roads before moving to secondary streets, such as alleys and cul-de-sacs.

Stahr said residents can report any plowing or salting concerns through the “Report a Concern” link on the city’s website,

“Our requests are monitored on a regular basis, especially when facing a storm or special situation,” Stahr said.

St. Charles residents can report concerns and potential hazards to the Public Works Department at 630-377-4405 or through St. Charles Connect, a web-based application. Visit for more information.

Adesso said the St. Charles Public Works Department staff takes pride in the road conditions it is providing the city.

“It’s important to note that there’s a really thought-out process here at public works when it comes to snow removal,” Adesso said.

“It’s a logical and practical plan that we are implementing, but it’s really rooted in our experience over the past 50 years of removing snow.”

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