February 2, 2015

Mayor Emanuel, City Of Chicago Officials Provide Update On Continued Winter Weather Response And Efforts To Help Keep Residents Safe

5th Largest Snowstorm in History of Chicago Drops More Than 19 Inches of Snow on City

Mayor's Press Office    312.744.3334

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and City of Chicago officials today provided an update on the City’s response to this historic snowstorm that began Saturday night and continued through Monday morning. A coordinated citywide response continues to focus on keeping the city moving.

"Our city experienced an historic snowfall with blizzard conditions over the last few days and it’s clear that Chicagoans are rising to the challenge," said Mayor Emanuel. "I ask everyone to keep exercising good judgment and to check on the well-being of family, friends, and neighbors. As always, I want to thank our residents for their patience, and I want to thank all of our City workers for their efforts to make sure that Chicago keeps moving and that our residents have access to vital City services when they are most needed."

Multiple departments and agencies are coordinating a citywide response, continually monitoring conditions and issues that may challenge residents as Chicago continues to feel the impact of the snow accumulation and cold temperatures.

"We remind residents to take precautions and to call 311 and we will connect you to City services and resources for assistance," said Gary Schenkel, Executive Director of the Office of Emergency Management and Communications.

The Department of Streets and Sanitation continues to monitor road conditions and has deployed over 350 snow removal vehicles along with 150 pieces of heavy equipment to keep Chicago streets safe. All available snow plows and salt spreaders have been salting and clearing neighborhood streets since 8:30am today. Snow removal vehicles will continue to focus snow clearing efforts on neighborhood streets throughout the afternoon and throughout the evening.

"The Department of Streets and Sanitation has been actively responding to the more than 19 inches of snow the city has received since 7pm Saturday," said Commissioner Charles Williams. "We have been clearing the neighborhood streets since 8:30am this morning, and we will continue to focus snow clearing efforts on neighborhood streets throughout the evening to ensure they are plowed and passable."

The City's first priority with every snow program is to ensure arterial streets are clear and safe and then snow removal equipment is moved to neighborhood residential streets.

Through Tuesday, the Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS) reminds anyone who needs to locate a warming center or secure overnight shelter should contact 311 directly. If they are unable to get to a warming center or shelter on their own, 311 can make transportation arrangements for them. 311 can also be used to request well-being checks for at risk residents or to request any other necessary City service.

CPS schools will be open Tuesday.

“We are welcoming our students back to class on Tuesday,” said CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett. “We urge all parents and families to make sure their children are prepared for the cold weather conditions, and CPS is following its winter weather plan to ensure all students and school personnel have a warm, comfortable and safe learning environment.”

The District is working to make sure schools are prepared to host students and staff for classes as regularly scheduled. During recent weeks, the District's maintenance crews have tested equipment in every school in order to ensure heating systems are in working order.

CPS is enacting its snow removal plans, tailored to each school, which rely on custodians, engineers and contractors to clear sidewalks, walkways and parking lots.

Parents can also call (773) 553-3100 or visit the CPS website for more information.

The Chicago Fire Department does not recommend that residents use space heaters, but acknowledges that people may rely on them during cold winter months. To minimize the dangers of space heaters, the Fire Department recommends only using heaters that are UL certified as safe and never use an extension cord with a space heater, which can cause the cord to overheat and burn. Most importantly, never allow a space heater within three feet of anything that can burn, especially bedding.

“Sadly, we have found that fires have started because children have moved a space heater closer to the bed for more heat after parents have gone to bed for the night,” said Charles Stewart, First Deputy Fire Commissioner. “Residents should also check and replace batteries in smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, especially this close to the holiday season. Batteries may have been borrowed for new electronics or toys.”

Fire officials also encourage residents to check to ensure their carbon monoxide detectors are working properly. With furnaces running during normal cold weather, a small carbon monoxide leak might not be noticed, but with heaters running non-stop to match the extreme cold, that small leak could become a deadly source of fumes. Carbon Monoxide detectors are designed to alert you before you feel sick, so if yours goes off get to fresh air and call 911.

The Chicago Department of Public Health reminds residents to take extra precautions to stay warm and avoid hypothermia and frostbite. Residents should avoid unnecessary trips outside, and if it is necessary to go outside, wear several loose fitting layers of warm clothing. When shoveling snow, work slowly and take frequent breaks to avoid exhaustion. Be sure to winterize your home and vehicles, and keep cell phones charged with extra batteries for emergencies. Residents are advised to use caution when shoveling heavy snow, to pace themselves and take breaks as needed.

As of 11:30 a.m., airlines at O’Hare had proactively canceled more than 1,015 flights. At Midway, airlines have proactively canceled more than 165 flights. Travelers are encouraged to confirm the status of their flight with their airlines throughout prior to heading to airport.

The CTA is anticipating normal weekday service today, and trains and buses are running on every route. All rail and bus lines will be operating through the rush hour, and we’ll be closely monitoring service and will address any delays as they arise.

This morning the CTA experienced some delays related to weather, and continues to dispatch CTA crews quickly as issues arise.

We advise customers to allow extra travel time, and strongly recommend customers get up-to-date bus and train arrival information via the CTA’s web site -- transitchicago.com, on Twitter @CTA, sign up for Bus and Train Tracker text/email alerts or access Bus and Train Tracker via mobile phones and at rail stations and bus stops.

The Department of Buildings enforces the Chicago Heat Ordinance, which mandates that temperatures inside a rental residence be at least 68 degrees from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., and 66 degrees at night. Landlords face fines of up to $500 per day, per violation, for each day they do not supply adequate heat.

If you are a renter and your landlord is not providing adequate heat, please contact 311 to file a complaint. During extreme weather, the Department of Buildings focuses its efforts on complaints from tenants regarding inadequate heat and reassigns inspectors to make sure these complaints are dealt with as quickly as possible. Since yesterday, the Department of Buildings has received 35 heat complaints. All complaints are being addressed and, at this time, there are no reports of conditions that warrant emergency relocation.

As can be expected during inclement weather, call volume has increased as result of the snowfall.. Residents are asked to be patient when calling 311, especially during peak call times during the day.

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