Reporting Susanna Song
MCHENRY, Ill. (CBS) – Thursday’s snowstorm hit first and hardest northwest of Chicago.
One northwest suburb was using some new techniques to help drivers stay safe on the roads.
When the storm hits, the Public Works garage will be the busiest place in McHenry.
Public Works Director John Schmitt said he was ready to dispatch dozens of loaded plows and salt trucks at a moment’s notice.
For the first time, McHenry will be using a special formula to treat the roads; it’s called Super Mix, also known as beet juice.
That’s right — salt is not the only way to melt snow and ice in winter.
“Beet juice mixed with calcium chloride, and the salt brine,” Schmitt said. “It’s used as an anti-icing agent. You apply it before the storm, so the snow and the ice doesn’t stick to the road.”
Most people probably wouldn’t think beets belong on the road.
“I wouldn’t say taking beets off the table, but it’s environmentally friendly. It’s the right thing to do,” Schmitt said.
McHenry has about 3,200 tons of road salt, full tanks of salt brine and hot mix, and a dozen dump trucks fully loaded with salt.
It’s not just his drivers who are gearing up for the first snowfall of the season.
His office has posted a map of all its snow plow routes, with one dump truck designated to one route.
When residents or police call about trouble spots, the office will know which truck drivers to reach to take care of those spots.
Also new this season, crews have been pre-wetting the salt.
Public Works employee Matt Rogers said, “It weighs the salt down, so the salt doesn’t bounce off the road. So it usually stays right where you put it. And then … the brine that you’re trying to create is already created by making it and spreading it with the salt; makes it work faster, and more efficient.”
By pre-wetting, McHenry will use 30 percent less salt than normal.
As for the Super Mix beet juice concoction, officials said they couldn’t use it on the roads on Thursday because the rain in the morning would have washed it away.
At the Northern Illinois community of Woodstock, strong winds blew snow at a nearly horizontal angle Thursday evening.
Diva’s Attic co-owner Virginia Dannehy ended up closing early.
“Normally, we would stay open late for the holidays, but business has kind of like ceased,” she tells CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot.
But for snow plow driver Ralph Dannehy, business was picking up.
“We’re praying for a little bad weather. I know other people don’t but we do,” he said.