CHICAGO (CBS) — City officials want Chicagoans to know they are ready for snow, even if the snow isn’t yet ready to fall.

As WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports, Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Thomas Byrne is ready to go. Among the innovations this year for his department are a new paging system for snow plow drivers, and removable barriers on Lake Shore Drive so motorists will never again be trapped in wind-driven snow like they were in the infamous blizzard this past February.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports

Byrne says his crews have been practicing for the first big snow day, whenever it arrives.

“Exercising trucks in the dry weather to make sure that we don’t have any breakdowns when time comes, and making sure they’re full, they’re started, and everything is working properly,” Byrne said.

Meanwhile, it turns out that the mild conditions so far this winter season have saved the city considerable money.

Byrne says Chicago has only used 5,000 tons of road salt so far this year, compared with 85,000 tons in the same time period last year.

That fact, combined with the lack of overtime for plow drivers in this nearly-snow free winter season, has made for significant savings.

At 60 street side points sensors and cameras measure road temperatures, letting operators at snow command know where to dispatch crews.

The high tech center is also prepared to mix GPS information from its trucks with 900 cameras citywide to help guide drivers to problem spots. Byrne says the system should provide faster service.

The GPS systems the command center uses to locate its trucks will soon be available to the rest of us.  In the coming weeks the city will announce an online program through which we can track snow plows and see when they’re passing our own streets.

Some snow is actually in the forecast for Thursday afternoon, but CBS 2 Meteorologist Megan Glaros says it will be slushy and watery, and will likely amount to about 1/2 an inch.

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