Snow plows took to the streets on Thursday in Arlington Heights -- all 52 of them.
There was no precipitation in the forecast, but these so-called "snow fighters" spent the day in educational sessions, learning about everything from reading weather reports to reducing salt usage.
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Driving their routes through the village, and having their plows checked out during a safety inspection, was the culminating part. They also heard from Bobby Richardson, a retired snow operations commander from Chicago.
For nearly 30 years, Arlington Heights public works department officials have held "snow day," to prepare for the upcoming season.
For the last 20 of those years, Mayor Arlene Mulder has addressed the teams of snow fighters as well as the snow command operation.
Thursday was her last snow day, in light of her announcement to retire in April, and nearly 90 public works employees took the opportunity to thank her.
They painted a mural on one of the snow plows, that read: "Thanks for 20 years of being the push behind the plow."
Scott Shirley, public works director, also presented the mayor with a red, white and blue broach, designed with the public works logo.
"As we all know, snow removal and ice control is not an exact science," Shirley said. "Thank you for being an elected official who understands that."
Mulder found herself emotional at the tribute, saying privately that she always has connected with public works employees and their trucks, after growing up on a farm in California.
In her last pep talk to the group, held inside the L.A. Hanson Public Works garage, she called the employees gathered around her, the "heart of what people see" in the village.
"You do all those invisible things that people want in a community," Mulder said, "that their streets are clean and the snow is plowed. You can have all the votes in the world and all the motions you want, but you have to have a staff behind you that delivers."
Scott Rowader, one of two snow commanders in Arlington Heights, organized the informational day and described it as their best yet, in terms of educational and environmental concerns.
He pointed to one of the speakers, Steve McCracken, watershed director for The Conservation Foundation in Naperville, who spoke about the runoff effect of using too much salt on aquatic life and ultimately in drinking water.
"This will be my 37th winter," Rowader said, "and traditionally, we get our first snowfall around Thanksgiving or shortly after that. We want to be prepared."