Preparation helps village handle record snowfall

By on February 11, 2011

by Keith Beebe
SUGAR GROVE—Sugar Grove village officials intent on keeping local roads clear and village residents safe during wintertime had their work cut out for them last Tuesday and Wednesday, thanks to over 20 inches of snowfall.

Despite concerns about whether the village had enough personnel to man snowplows to handle the intense snowfall—and whether residents would heed the village’s warning to stay off the roads—the village was able to get through the storm’s aftermath without any serious incidents, which is a testament to how prepared the village was for the dramatic snowfall.

“You have to give Public Works Director Anthony Speciale credit. He wanted to be prepared for the big snow on Tuesday and Wednesday, so he started putting (employees) on 12-hour shifts on Monday,” Village President Sean Michels said. “Those guys were out throughout the whole night (on Tuesday).”

“I thought we were well prepared for the storm. We had snow chains installed on our front-line ambulances and our rescue squadron engine on the Tuesday morning before the storm, and they helped tremendously with what we had to deal with,” Sugar Grove Fire Chief Marty Kunkel said. “We cover 34 square miles, and it’s all wide-open spaces. We were really busy during the heavy period (of the snowstorm) between 7 p.m. (Tuesday) and midnight.”

Kunkel said the department had three ambulance calls during that five-hour span, and then stranded motorists started to arrive at the Fire Department, which served as a warming center during the snowstorm.

“We ended up with 20 people spending the night here,” he said. “We weren’t really prepared to have them spend the night—no cots or anything—but we provided them with blankets, water, pop, a warm place to sit, and then we went and got breakfast for them in the morning. The last person probably left around 4 p.m.”

According to Michels, there were a couple of instances during the storm when plow truck drivers had to deviate from their route and lead police and ambulances out to Route 56 in order to bring in stranded motorists.

“I think they picked up three people on one trip and then picked up two people on another,” Michels said. “A few of the motorists were stranded right by the Galena Boulevard ramp.”

A family from Canada was stranded overnight on Dugan Road, north of Route 30. However, that family was in a camper and wasn’t in any serious danger.

“They were extremely happy to see the plow truck pull up,” Michels said.

There was also a stranded motorist who was rescued by DeKane Sno-Trackers snowmobilers
Michels hopes to meet with Kunkel, Speciale and Police Chief Brad Sauer to talk about the possibility of having snowmobiles on standby for when the village needs to go out during a winter storm and search areas where people could be stranded.

Michels also wants to suggest the addition of light bars onto the Dodge Dakota pickup trucks that serve as vehicles for the Public Works Department. The Sugar Grove Police Department used the trucks during the storm.

“We might want to get some lights on those trucks so that they can be used either as police vehicles or rescue vehicles,” he said. “Right now they don’t have any high lights on them.”

Kunkel said the Fire Department will look into having snowmobiles on standby, but he doesn’t believe they were necessary during the storm.

“I’m not sure (snowmobiles) are the best way to go, but we’ll certainly look at that,” he said.

Kunkel is also asking all Sugar Grove residents with a fire hydrant on their property to shovel out around the hydrant if it is in any way blocked or covered with snow.