Updated: March 6, 2014 6:47AM
While the Chicago area hardly is known for its hilly terrain, this winter is changing that.
The continuing snowfall is not just a hazard to walk and drive on, it’s become dangerous to drive around the ever-growing “snow hills.”
Drivers find themselves cautiously creeping into an intersection because mounds of snow have made it a challenge to see cross traffic, and even backing out of the driveway too quickly can result in a fender-bender.
Public works crews are relocating what snow they can to make room for the next batch, such as the storm that started Tuesday evening and was expected to drop several more inches around the Southland.
In Homer Township, street crews were out earlier Tuesday, nudging back piles that have built up to create room for the next round of plowing, Mike DeVivo, the township’s highway commissioner, said.
“It’s easier to prepare before the next snow than to deal with it at 3 a.m.,” he said. “We’re no different than any other public works department.”
Gary Wilde, of The Grounds Guys in New Lenox, was using a front-end loader to move a large pile of snow at the end of dead-end street, relocating it to a field near Laraway and Nelson roads.
“We’re running out of room,” he said. “Everywhere you go there are piles and piles of snow. Everyone is scrambling to get it out of the way before the next storm hits.”
Dale Schepers, Tinley Park’s public works director, said it’s common practice for the village to deploy front-end loaders to move large piles of snow, but his department “has experienced a greater need this season” to do that. Once the mounds get too high, they’ve got to be shoved elsewhere to avoid blocking drivers’ views at intersections and other locations, he said.
Orland School District 135 is using smaller Bobcat vehicles at its schools to free up space for fresh snow by dumping what’s already here into fields around the schools, Tracy Marc, a district spokeswoman, said.
Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar laughed when asked where the new snow will go.
“I don’t know. There are piles of snow everywhere. It’s unbelievable,” he said. “Some of these piles are three or four feet tall at the end of some driveways.”
With three weeks to go before the end of meteorological winter (Feb. 28), this winter already ranks as the fourth-snowiest in the Chicago area’s recorded weather history (since 1884) — just more than 51 inches since Dec. 1, not counting what started falling Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.
And temperatures that stubbornly refuse to push past the freezing mark aren’t helping to melt much. The National Weather Service sees below-average temperatures hanging around for most of February, meaning that what’s now the 11th-coldest winter in Chicago-area history could move up in that dubious ranking.
The hills of snow that adults loathe and drivers curse are a potentially dangerous draw to children, who view them as great for carving out forts and tunnels. Municipal officials are warning that snow tunnels can collapse and trap children, and forts in large mounds near the street present a danger from passing vehicles, including plows.
John Ingram, Orland Park’s director of infrastructure maintenance, said in a notice to residents that “our (plow) drivers watch carefully when moving them (mounds of snow), but it’s oftentimes difficult to see the other side of the pile.”
Susan DeMar Lafferty,