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Whether you love it, hate it or merely tolerate it, snow season has arrived.

The responsibility of providing snow and ice control for Ela Township’s roadways, totaling 36 center miles, is assigned to the Highway Department

To keep township roads clear and safe for motorists, the highway department utilizes five mainline trucks equipped with snow plows and liquid tanks to apply salt brine beet heat solution, four pick-up trucks with snow plows and two anti-ice spray units.

The highway department’s salt bin can hold 300 tons of salt, which can be replenished as needed via a contract with Lake County. The township has also purchased a new 2,800-ton capacity salt dome, located on Village of Lake Zurich property, for emergency use. The township can keep 200 tons of salt on reserve here. Other villages within the township could potentially store reserve salt in this dome as well.

“Since salt is a commodity and the price fluctuates, we can buy extra when the price is low to keep on hand during years when prices are higher,” said Jeff Thompson, Ela Township Highway Department Foreman.

Each snow removal season, the township uses an average of 500 to 700 tons of salt, mixed with a beet juice cocktail that helps prevent ice build-up.

“We try to conserve as much salt as we can because it’s not good for the environment, the ponds,” said Bill Kruckenberg, Ela Township Highway Commissioner. “Once that salt goes into the ponds, it never goes away.”

Roads and subdivisions maintained by Ela Township:

Echo Lake Road; N.Lakewood Road; John Court, Gabriel Drive; Sacamano Court; Miller Road; Del Court; Indian Trail Road; Ivy Lane; Dartmouth Lane; Columbia Court; Woodbury Court; August Lane; Anna Court; Old McHenry Court; Hazelcrest Road; Rand Court; Plum Grove Road and Shirley Road, along with the subdivisions of Echo Lake, Forest Lake, Long Meadows Farm, Indian Meadows Hillside Estates, Abby Glenn, Lochanora and Valentine Manor.

The township also plows a section of Deer Park.

Gilmer, Old McHenry and Fairfield roads are plowed by Lake County, while Midlothian Road, Route 12 (Rand Road) and Route 22 are the responsibility of the state.

When are streets plowed?

Plowing generally begins when snow is more than one-inch deep and freezing temperatures indicate that the snow will not melt. Salting is done only when an icing condition occurs, when the snow depth is one inch or less, and after the snow subsides so it has time to work.

Why is snow piled on my corner?

Snow that accumulates across side roads and street corners needs to be pushed onto the corner to allow cars to turn. The snow is pushed back onto the corner in the direction the truck is traveling so some corners may get more snow than others. If a snow pile on a particular corner becomes a sight distance problem, call the highway department at (847) 438-2371.

Why isn’t my street plowed more quickly?

Under normal circumstances, it takes 16 to 24 hours to clear the snow. The highway department’s large snow plows typically concentrate first on major streets within a particular subdivision. Once these are plowed, they move to secondary streets. It typically takes each truck four to five hours to clear its route. If there is a heavy, sustained storm, the truck may have to make many passes to keep roads passable. 

Why is snow left at the end of my driveway?

There is no practical way for the snow plow operator to cut off the wind row of snow when crossing a driveway. This problem is especially acute on cul-de-sacs, which are very confined spaces that require the snow to be placed along the outside of the circle. The problem is compounded by the fact that homeowners must clear their driveways, which places large piles of snow on the corners of the drives. To reduce the amount of snow that is plowed in front of your driveway, blow or shovel the snow to the right side of your drive as you face the street.

What can residents do to help?

  • When it starts to snow, park your vehicle off the street. This protects it from being splashed with slush and salt, and prevents it from being plowed in. Also, don’t park vehicles in driveways within 10 feet from the edge of pavement.
  • Do not shovel or blow snow back into the street after it has been plowed and salted. Snow that is deposited on the street can refreeze and cause hazardous conditions for you or your neighbors. Pile snow from the driveway throat on the side which is downstream from traffic to minimize visibility problems.
  • Remove all non-permanent seasonal items from within 10 feet from the edge of pavement.
  • Trim trees so branches do not extend beyond the back of the curb.
  • Check that your mailbox and post are in good repair and that they are behind the curb, not leaning out over the street. If there is a fire hydrant in front of your home, clear the snow around it. It is there for your protection and that of your neighbors.
  • Do not allow children to build and occupy snow forts and similar creations within 10 feet from the edge of pavement.

Don’t crowd the plow

When sharing the road with a snow plow, motorists are advised not to follow too closely, as plows make frequent stops and turns, and to use caution when passing.

“Use common sense,” Kruckenberg said.

And remember, if you can’t see the plow’s mirror, they can’t see you.

It should also be noted that the highway department cannot tow vehicles that are stuck or in ditches, simply because their trucks are too powerful and would end up causing more damage.

“Our trucks would destroy any vehicle smaller than us,” Thompson said.

Be prepared

It’s wise to keep a winter emergency kit in your vehicle that includes a blanket and extra clothes, expandable shovel, a bag of salt or cat litter for traction if you get stuck, ice scraper and snow brush, a flashlight and batteries, first-aid kit, road flares, jumper cables, non-perishable food and water.

For more winter survival tips, check out the Illinois Emergency Management Agency’s Winter Weather Preparedness Guide.

For more information about the services of the Ela Township Highway Department, visit www.elatownship.org/highway.