Cold means busy time for Elgin first responders
By Mike Danahey email@example.com January 7, 2014 1:50PM
Elgin Police Chief Jeff Swoboda | Sun-Times Media file
Updated: February 9, 2014 6:26AM
ELGIN — As the polar vortex stuck around for a second day Tuesday, Police Chief Jeff Swoboda said city public safety staff remained bustling.
“There have been multiple accidents with injuries. We’ve been very busy with crashes,” Swoboda said. “The roads look better, but it’s a black ice type of thing. And there is more traffic today than Monday, when many people stayed home.”
Swoboda said he spent part of Tuesday morning visiting homeless shelters run by PADS (Public Action to Deliver Shelter) and the Wayside Center. While both were crowded, there was room for those who needed it, and no one had been turned away during the severe weather.
Swoboda said this had been the coldest time he could recall happening during his 22 years as a police officer in Elgin. The other busiest winter-weather times he could recall working in the city were the blizzard three years ago and an ice storm about 10 years ago.
The health of police and fire staff is a concern during bad weather, too. To that end, police last year started to change out the department’s fleet for all-wheel drive vehicles, Swoboda said.
During severe cold snaps, police beef up patrols looking for homeless, while they also receive more calls asking them to conduct well-being checks.
According to information provided by the city, from midnight until 2:30 p.m. Monday, public safety calls included aiding a 41-year-old man with a frostbitten finger; addressing eight hazardous conditions, including those at Belmont and South streets caused by freezing roads and potholes preventing vehicle passage; assisting five stalled vehicles; securing three areas with arcing wires; responding to a fire alarm that went off during a power outage; responding to seven property damage accidents; heading to another 15 calls to assist in hazards that included motorists stuck in ditches; and covering 13 accidents.
“We’ve been busy, but it’s not been overwhelming,” Swoboda said.
Fire Chief John Fahy said this is the longest cold spell he can remember in his tenure with the department.
He noted that apparently weather-related accidents Tuesday forced the temporary closures of Route 20 and Shales Parkway, and Randall Road and Interstate 90.
The department also received a half-dozen calls since Monday for burst pipes in homes or businesses, and Fahy said he expects more as the weather thaws.
He recommended that residents and business owners know where water shut-off valves are located to turn off water to minimize damage should pipes burst.
The total volume of calls has been comparable to other winter weather events such as the blizzard three years ago, Fahy said.