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Snow-Clearing Businesses Prepared And Busy As Winter Storm Hammers Chicago Area

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Chicago businesses that deal with snow removal were prepared and busy Saturday as a New Year's Day snowstorm pounded the area.

CBS 2's Jackie Kostek spent part of the day with the owner of a snow removal company. He credits radar technology for really being able to prepare for a snow event like this.

That preparation began days ago, but really kicked into high gear Saturday morning.

"The trick is like you're throwing a baseball," said Tom Otto as he started up a snowblower.

At that point, the flurries were barely flying yet. But Otto and his team were ready to get to work.

"I think of Ulysses S. Grant preparing for battle during the Civil War," Otto said.

Otto has been going to battle against Chicago's formidable winters since 1998. Dozens and dozens of snowblowers make up the bulk of Otto's fleet – and he has other useful items too.

"We have all of our scrapers here," he said. "These are a very important tool - your ice scraper."

Otto said his company, Tomotto Co., has about 150 clients - mostly city condo associations which require snow removal on walkways, stairs, and sometimes parking lots. That requires fewer big plows and more hand tools like shovels.

Managing and maintaining equipment is one thing. Managing about 10 crews and countless routes another.

"This is just one, two, three, here's six crews and a lot of guys have already come and gone," Otto said. "They follow these addresses obviously and make sure they all get serviced."

Otto said thankfully, global supply chain issues haven't thwarted operations - but he worries salt could be in short supply by midseason. Labor has been a challenge.

"The worker now has the ball in their court," Otto said. "Now they can almost dictate to you what they want to do, or what they want to get paid - where previously, it was the other way around."

But after more than 20 years, Otto knows what it takes to ride out a storm.

"This is another important tool of the snow removal business is you have to pack a lunch full of food - because you are working all day long," Otto said.

Some Chicago city plows were also seen dropping a whole lot of salt downtown, and people were seen clearing sidewalks. The Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation has placed 287 salt spreaders on the roads throughout the night and into Sunday morning.

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