That nearly 2 feet of snow that blanketed the region is gradually being pushed back, melted, moved and transformed to turn the West and Northwest suburbs back into a livable -- and maneuverable -- place.
And it's taking some unique approaches, as days of snow removal and taming continue.
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There's the "Snogo" in Arlington Heights that looks sort of like a mechanical Snuffleupagus and cuts through snow walls. The airports have snow melters that turn snow-covered runways back into concrete, while communities across the suburbs are moving snow by the truckload to open land that's not being used during these cold winter days.
Unlike usual snowfall events, there's too much snow this time to just wait for it to melt. The Illinois Department of Transportation is just one agency that's switched its operation from plowing to removal. Snow on expressways was the first to be removed by IDOT and hauled to state land near North Avenue and Interstate 90, officials said.
"We've run out of capacity along the roads," said Guy Tridgell, an IDOT spokesman. "We've got more than enough room on our property."
The impetus to move rather than just push aside the snow is mainly public safety. Piles at busy intersections are creating blind spots for motorists. Walls of snow as tall as most adults along highways and tollways are buckling under their own weight and spilling back onto the roads.
Wheaton is moving snow from its downtown shopping district and other key points to the nearby DuPage County Fairgrounds.
"We've already had some calls (from other towns) today asking if they can dump out there, and we've told them no," said Bob Harazin, Wheaton's superintendent of streets.
Lake Zurich is moving snow to strategic points throughout the village, including parks, said Village Administrator Bob Vitas. He was quick to note that the piles of snow wouldn't leech any road de-icing chemicals into the ground.
"The snow that we have been moving is snow that has been pushed into the public right-of-way and has not been affected by salt," Vitas said. "Because of the intensity of the storm, we're going to have relocated piles all over the community."
In Naperville, they've moved much of the downtown shopping district snow to a vacant lot near the city's public works facility on the west side of the city.
The city has a snow melting machine but hasn't had to use it yet.
"It's a little faster and cheaper if you have the space to stockpile," said Dave Van Vooren, the city's public works director.
Both airports are using melters to rid the runways and taxiways of snow. Chicago Aviation Department officials began melting snow before regular flight operations resumed Thursday.
Elgin and Arlington Heights officials also said they were moving snow from their downtown shopping districts.
Arlington Heights Director of Public Works Scott Shirley said the village is using the "Snogo" to get rid of excess snow in key areas. He said the machine can rip through walls that plows leave behind.
"They could eat a Volkswagen Beetle," he said. "In fact, one did years ago. It didn't really eat it, but it beat it up pretty bad before the (Snogo) driver knew what was happening."
Aurora is using an old YWCA parking lot to store downtown snow that's being moved in dump trucks and scooped by end loaders usually used as earthmoving equipment.
"The only other snow we've physically had to remove is from residential cul-de-sacs, and we put that on nearby parkways," city spokesman Dan Ferrelli said.
Most city officials said the removal operations were being done at key points in the community. None said there were any plans to go into residential neighborhoods and begin removing excess snow there.
• Daily Herald staff writer Deborah Donovan contributed to this report.