Snow Fighting Information

Orland Park experienced a large snowfall event this past weekend.  With that comes resident concerns and complaints.  Thank you to the Public Works Department, Parks & Grounds Departments and other snow fighting employees for their hard work during an extremely difficult event.  They worked numerous 12 hour shifts in difficult conditions at all hours of the day.  In addition, our Police Department did a great job to keep the public safe.  Lastly, thank you to the contractors who also are part of our snow fighting team.

Overall our snow fighting team did a very good job in a very demanding event, on the heels of several other events during the week.  In total over 22” officially fell during this time.  Some places in Orland received over 25”.  This overall assessment doesn’t mean that we didn’t make mistakes.  Snow fighting is tiring and done by human beings, so mistakes do happen.  For this reason, I have asked our snow fighting team to do an after-action report for this event.  The goal of this process is to examine processes and procedures and improve them for future events. Events of this magnitude are rare (all told, for the weekend this was the 2nd or 3rd largest in the last 15 years that I’ve been fighting snow), but put significant stress on the system.  It is stressful events like this that best help identify opportunities for improvement.  Staff will be discussing this with the Board of Trustees at the next board meeting.

As some of you know, my company contracted for the Village of Orland Park for 15 years, so I am very familiar with the process and the challenges.  I wanted to take this opportunity to explain some of the processes of our snow fighting efforts to address some of the more common concerns that were raised by residents.  We have two teams and a cleanup crew for roads, a contractor team for cul-de-sacs and dead ends and the parks department for our parks and parking lots.  I will focus on street crews since that is where most complaints are focused.  A typical shift is 12 hours and a route usually takes 6 to 8 hours for Village crews and for contractors.  On snow events like this, the contractor teams can take several hours longer because their trucks are smaller which make pushing snow during large events more difficult for them.  This is why those of you in cul-de-sacs may have experienced a little more trouble than others during the event.

When the snow is coming down at the rate it was, with 6 to 8 hour routes, by the time the route is over as much as 6+ inches could be on the ground.  Regardless of the snow fall, eventually we have to send crews home to rest when an event is this long.  Additionally, we always clear the middle of the road to be passable first.  The last thing that we do is have a crew curb the snow (clear from curb to curb).  In this case, because the snow volumes were so high, we did not push the snow any closer to the curbs because it could damage our equipment and would put 2 to 3 feet of snow in everybody’s driveway.  Unfortunately, this also means that it may have been a little more difficult for residents to clear out their mailbox.

Additionally, snow often gets piled a little higher on corners in subdivisions, because at an intersection we can lose over 80’ of curbs to put the snow on and it must go somewhere.  For this event we proactively brought in loaders to deal with specific locations where the snow was too high and caused hazardous situations.  Corner houses likewise will have more work to do clearing their sidewalks to get to the streets.  It’s an unfortunate reality of living in a corner house.

Many people commented on roads like LaGrange, Wolf, 159th, 108th and 104th.  It is important to note that state roads are IDOTs responsibility and county roads (like 108th and 104th) are the responsibility of Cook County.  Sometimes when Orland Park crews are in transit, we travel with blades down. Sometimes we do not drop the blades because on certain roads we don’t have the right equipment and on others we would incur liability if we plowed the roads.  Between resident complaints and our team’s evaluation it is clear that IDOT is having trouble with LaGrange Road, particularly from 159th St to 179th St.   We informed IDOT of this problem Saturday morning about 3AM and by 6:30AM it was cleared.  We will be working with IDOT to ensure that the additional lanes on LaGrange are accounted for and it is cleared in a timelier manner going forward.

In addition to the after-action report to make improvements, we are working with our IT department to develop an app that will allow residents to more quickly communicate issues with the Village.  This should be implemented by the end of 2018.  When this happens, please keep the snow fighting process in mind and that it does take at least 8 hours to get through a snow route.

Thanks again and I hope this was helpful.