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Mild weather means salt-free county roads

Waukegan director public works Tom Hagerty looks control box liquid deicer back snow plow salt truck public works garage. |

Waukegan director of public works Tom Hagerty looks at a control box of a liquid deicer on the back of a snow plow salt truck in the public works garage. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media

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Least snowy Winters

With little or no snow in the forecast, the Chicago area may soon break the record for the least-snowiest start to winter.

The only winters here that have started off with less snowfall through Jan. 10 are 1889-90 when 1.3 inches of snow fell; 1936-37 when 1.4 inches fell; and 2001-02 when 1.7 inches fell, the National Weather Service said.

With no snow expected Tuesday, Jan. 10, we’re only at 1.9 inches of snow so far this season.

Assuming we don’t officially pick up a half-inch of measurable snow or more by Jan. 16, then the 2011-12 winter will move into first place for the lowest snowfall total to date, the weather service said.

And the weather service says although the warm temperatures over the past 37 days have not been record-breaking, they’ve still been abnormally warm on several occasions.

The unseasonably warm temperatures in December helped lead to the 15th warmest December on record in Chicago. The conditions continued into the first week of January as well. Near record warmth was recorded on both Jan. 5 and Jan. 6.

Last year’s daily high temperature during the same 37-day period were either at or consistently below average with the exception of a brief warm spell around Jan. 1, 2011. Overall, December 2010 ended up being the 17th coldest on record, the weather service said.

Tuesday and Wednesday will see highs in the 50s, but Thursday will take a big dip, all the way to 28 degrees and 14 degrees by nightfall, the weather service said.

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Updated: March 10, 2012 1:48AM

If you are thinking your city or municipality or township must be saving big bucks because of the lack of winter’s punch, you are right. But you are also wrong.

Patrick Muetz, Gurnee village manager, said Gurnee is about $165,000 in the good when taking into account the salt, accelerated deicer SuperMix and saved overtime.

“But we’re not even close to being whole,” he said, because of the damaging wind storms this past summer.

Last year at this point, we already had 20 inches of snow on the ground and Gurnee spent $188,000 on snow removal. This year, the village has spent $22,000. Village crews have only been out four times this year.

“Obviously, we’ll take this. It makes up for July,” Muetz said.

Tom Haggerty, head of public works for Waukegan, said he was looking this winter’s freaky weather as nature evening things out.

“People forget we had three blizzards in July,” he said referring to three wind events, one of which was just along the lakeshore.

“It’s a good thing we don’t have snow yet,” he said.

Instead, city crews are working on maintenance jobs and some catch basin work that could only be done during this type of warm-up.

“The salt is not going to go bad,” he noted.

Mark Ring, Antioch highway commissioner, said his crews have been saving on fuel, overtime and wear and tear on the trucks, which get pushed to the limit with the weight of salt and the amount of snow that needs to be pushed in a normal winter.

He said crews have been doing maintenance around the shop and on various vehicles, and they have also been out doing brush-clearing around stop signs and sight lines of intersections.

Ring said the wind storm in July that hit mainly Antioch caused a lot of overtime.

“I never saw destruction like that,’ he said. “The money we saved (this winter) was already spent last July.”

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