Winter Snow Clearing

Inside Chicago: DSS Snow Operations

Snow Command 

Department of Streets & Sanitation (DSS) coordinates Chicago's snow and ice control efforts from Snow Command. This high tech command center allows us to access and view a network of cameras and pavement sensors to get a quick and accurate assessment of our pavement conditions citywide. We track incoming weather systems via Doppler radar and through constant communication with our meteorological consultants and the National Weather Service. And we combine all of these technologies along with the Global Positioning Systems (GPS) on all of our trucks to strategically deploy our snow personnel to up to over 280 snow routes.  Once on the roadways our trucks patrol, plow or salt our routes as necessary. 

DSS is responsible for maintaining winter roadway safety on a route system of more than 9,400 lane miles.  Our routes consist of city main streets, neighborhood streets and Lake Shore Drive, divided into six Snow Districts. The expressway system that travels through Chicago is maintained by the State of Illinois' Department of Transportation, IDOT, and their familiar orange trucks. 

During a snow program Streets & Sanitation’s first priority is to clear our main routes and Lake Shore Drive. Once arterial streets are patrolled and deemed safe is generally when Snow Command turns our attention to the side streets.  

While most side streets are cleared by full size Snow Fighting Trucks, Chicago's narrowest side streets are cleaned by a fleet of over 20 smaller plows. These include 4x4 pick-up trucks with plows and heavy salt capacity.  

For major snowstorms, Streets and Sanitation also has the capacity to equip as many as 200 garbage trucks with "quick hitch" plows to supplement the fleet. Since these don't have salt spreading capability, they are run in tandem with trucks that do. In addition, heavy equipment and labor is available from other municipal departments for snow clearance during and after a blizzard. 

Winter Snow Parking Restrictions 

In order to ensure that the most critical roadways in Chicago are kept open to full capacity at all times, the City of Chicago instituted and vigorously enforces a Winter Overnight Parking Ban on 107 miles of vital arterial streets from 3 am to 7 am between December 1st and April 1st, regardless of snow.  

Motorists who ignore this permanently posted seasonal tow zone face a $150 towing fee (minimum) in addition to a $60 ticket and an initial $25 daily storage fee. 

A separate snow related parking ban exists for another 500 miles of main streets and can be activated after there are at least two inches of snow on the street, no matter the time of day or the calendar date. While the 2” inch snow ban is not activated often, motorists who are parked there when it snows could receive a ticket or find that their vehicle has been relocated in order to facilitate snow clearing operations.  

Both of these parking bans were implemented on designated arterial streets to prevent recurrences of problems that happened in 1967 and 1979 when Chicago came to a traffic standstill due to major snowstorms.  

Service Facts

Department Main Office

Streets and Sanitation