Despite the seemingly constant flow of scary weather warnings through Thursday, Randy Ebertowski was ready for a nice crowd at Gurnee Mills.
Ebertowski's optimism would have seemed unlikely, given Gurnee had among the highest suburban snowfall totals, estimated by the National Weather Service at 18 inches in one official spot from Tuesday to Thursday. A second measuring area in Gurnee registered 13.7 inches.
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However, many of Lake County's thoroughfares were clear enough for smooth travel Thursday, and Gurnee Mills' crews worked long hours to remove snow from the parking lots and entrances. The mall, which was open as usual from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., historically has attracted good crowds in poor weather, Ebertowski said.
"We're nice and warm inside, clear and dry," he told the Daily Herald during a brief break Thursday.
Snow is not expected to be a problem in the suburbs Friday, according to the National Weather Service. Instead, the forecast calls for wind gusts of up to 50 mph at night and highs of 12 to 16 degrees.
After a predicted high in the 30s and a possibility of light snow Saturday, a deep freeze should move in. The weather service forecasts highs of 15 to 19 degrees Sunday and 3 to 7 degrees below zero Monday.
Below-normal temperatures are expected to continue through this month, according to the weather service's Climate Prediction Center. The normal high for January is 31 or 32 degrees, while the low is 16 or 17 degrees.
As for the past three days, snowplows became common sights on roadways because crews across the suburbs worked almost nonstop in an effort to help commuters get around. Police also assisted motorists who got stuck in the snow.
Similar to other suburbs, Mount Prospect public works employees handled their snow-removal duties in 12-hour shifts from Tuesday through Thursday.
Mount Prospect's director of public works, Sean Dorsey, said simply getting snow off the village's roads was the biggest challenge his crews faced on Thursday.
"It's the long endurance of this storm that has made things difficult for us," he said. "Fortunately, it's been a lighter, drier snow, which has helped with the removal."
Towns on Cook County's 48-hour snow leader board included Inverness at an estimated 13.5 inches, Elk Grove Village with 12.8 and Schaumburg at 12.7, according to the National Weather Service.
Naperville city officials have been monitoring the expenses involved in getting snow off the streets this winter.
Spokeswoman Linda LaCloche said Naperville plows have been used on four occasions and trucks de-iced streets 12 times. That work has required Naperville to drop 10,000 tons of salt while spending $275,000 on overtime.
Contractors also have been called to help plow cul-de-sacs, costing the city $200,000 since mid-November, LaCloche said.
None of the totals have hit the five-year averages for an entire winter season, but salt usage and contractor costs already are coming close. Over five years, LaCloche said, the city has spent an average of $260,000 on snow plowing contractors and has used an average of 14.5 tons of salt.
Carol Stream was among the tops in DuPage snowfall at 8.6 inches.
Elgin Public Works Superintendent Dan Rich said his crews worked 12-hour shifts for the past two days. He said all residential streets were plowed as part of an effort that included 23 trucks and 30 employees.
"They get a full 12 hours to go home and rest, but it's still difficult work, especially when working through parts of the day they are not used to working," Rich said. "We get them supplied with coffee, Panera sandwiches and soup."
Elgin police Cmdr. Ana Lalley said there were no serious weather-related crashes since Tuesday and that officers helped a few motorists whose vehicles became stranded in snow and in need of a tow truck. The weather service estimated 9.1 inches of snow fell on Elgin.
In Algonquin, the village's public works department plans to continue touch-ups on plowed streets the rest of the week, Director Bob Mitchard said. Since New Year's Eve, police have received 13 calls to help dig out motorists who were trapped in the snow, said Michael Kumbera, an assistant to the village manager.
Antioch Village Administrator Jim Keim said his town operated two 12-hour snowplow crews to keep the streets clear. He said those employees worked long and hard over the 48-hour period.
"The crews did an excellent job," he said. "The cold weather has forced us to use more salt than we anticipated we would need at this point. We'll see if that's a problem come February."
Keim also said officials are keeping a close eye on the budget to see if the recent snow will break the bank.
"We budget for this type of thing every year, so we are still in our allotment," he said.
Mundelein joined Gurnee on the high end of 48-hour snow totals, with 13.7 inches estimated by the weather service. Deputy Public Works Director Joe DeVito said the village calculated the snow at 15 inches for the duration.
Snowplow crews held up despite lengthy duty, DeVito said.
"Everybody's doing great. That's one good thing about 12-hour shifts -- everyone knows when they're going home," he said.
• Daily Herald staff writers Mick Zawislak, Elena Ferrarin, Lenore T. Adkins, Matt Arado and Marie Wilson contributed to this report.