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Chicago’s Snow Czar: ‘It’s A Tough Game Here’

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Chicago Streets and Sanitation Director Tom Byrne is in charge of snow removal -- a high-pressure job in the Windy City. (CBS)

Chicago Streets and Sanitation Director Tom Byrne is in charge of snow removal — a high-pressure job in the Windy City. (CBS)

Jay Levine Jay Levine
Jay Levine is the chief correspondent for CBS 2 Chicago. He joined...
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CHICAGO (CBS) – City plows and salt trucks attacked snowy side streets Friday while making sure Lake Shore Drive remained clear for rush hour.

CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine talked with the man in charge of Chicago’s snow-clearing efforts to talk about residents’ high expectations.

Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Tom Byrne has had very little sleep in the last couple of days, but he was at Snow Command Friday to monitor crews.

“We’ll have trucks out tonight, we’ll have trucks out all weekend,” he said.

So far, people seem pleased.

“I’m really impressed, considering last year,” Sharon Johnson said.

Michael Collins agreed, especially compared to last February’s blizzard that stranded several vehicles on Lake Shore Drive.

Byrne was due to retire last year, but hit it off with the new mayor, Rahm Emanuel, and decided to stay.

“This is a tough coach and it’s a tough game here,” Byrne says.

The “coach” stopped by Thursday night, to see how things were going — remembering well the big storm right in the middle of last year’s mayoral race and the critical questions which followed.

Then-Mayor Richard Daley had already said he was stepping down, unlike former Mayor Mike Bilandic who actually lost his job in 1979 following a botched snow-removal effort.

Since then, snow and politics have gone hand in hand.

In keeping with the new mayor’s transparency pledge, an online “Plow Tracker” program gives real-time locations of snow plows. The city said views of the application topped 25,000.

From a political standpoint, the stakes in snow removal are high.

“I think we did pretty well yesterday,” Byrne says.

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