Blizzard Buries Naperville

Snow falling at several inches an hour coupled with 40 mile per hour winds made for the third biggest blizzard in the area, following the storms of 1967 and 1999. The snow buried about a third of the country, leaving many residents homebound and hundreds of drivers stranded on highways. Illinois government officials even called for a state of emergency.

In Naperville, the storm covered the city in nearly seven tons of snow, leaving it virtually a ghost-town. Shops, restaurants, schools and libraries all shut down Tuesday afternoon.

Wednesday morning, neighborhoods roared to life, as residents started plowing and shoveling their driveways.

“They hit the prediction right,” said Naperville resident Jim Loughery. “I thought for sure it’d roll by us with just a couple inches but they nailed it.”

The roof of the Kmart on Ogden Avenue collapsed under the weight of the now, needing $200,000 worth of repairs, while a fallen limb damaged a building on the campus of North Central College. City officials say there were no other major property damages or accidents.

City Public Works crews worked around the clock to clear 1,500 miles of road throughout the city. By 1pm Wednesday, most of the city’s main arteries were clear.

“We had a lot of precursor information relative to when it was coming and how dramatic it was going to be,” said Dave Van Vooren, the city’s Public Works Director. “We had more equipment available at any time than any event in the past for the city of Naperville.” On Wednesday there were about 100 plows and dump trucks removing snow on the roads at any given time.

The Department of Public Works also worked closely with local Fire and Police Departments to help them get to residents in need. “Our biggest challenge was getting out to the locations and gaining access to the people and the structures that we had to access,” said Fire Chief Mark Puknaitis.

In the wake of the storm, city officials are still totaling the costs but estimate it to be more than $300,000. “Expense hasn’t been an issue in how we resolve this. We haven’t short-changed our approach,” said Van Vooren. “But it will be the most expensive event public works has had to deal with.”

Dealing with that unexpected expense will be a burden on city leaders long after the snow is gone. In the meantime, crews remain busy clearing lower-priority streets and cul-de-sacs and removing snow drifts from major roads.

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