CHICAGO (CBS) -- Chicago's forecast might be clear and relatively mild for the foreseeable future, but Mayor Lori Lightfoot and other top city officials on Thursday sought to assure the city they are prepared for when snow and extreme cold do arrive this winter.
"As Chicagoans, we obviously know a thing or two about getting ready and dealing with winter weather," Lightfoot said Thursday morning. "This normal effort is made all the more challenging because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but we are ready and will rise to the occasion."
The mayor said one of the city's top priorities is keeping the streets clear and public transportation running, even when there's heavy snow or extreme cold temperatures.
Streets and Sanitation Commissioner John Tully, who oversees the city's fleet of snow plows, said Chicago has more than 330 snow plows and salt spreaders prepped for the winter, along with 400,000 tons of road salt stored at various locations throughout the city.
Chicago's annual winter overnight parking ban went into effect this week, prohibiting parking between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m. on 107 miles of the city's main streets between Dec. 1 and April 1, regardless of weather conditions. Violators face a possible $60 parking ticket, a $150 towing charge, and a $25 per day impound fee.
In addition to the winter overnight parking ban, there is a separate snow-related ban on 500 more miles of city streets, which is enforced whenever there are at least two inches of snow on the street, regardless of the time or date. While rarely enforced, violating the 2-inch snow parking ban also can result in a $60 parking ticket. The city also might relocate your car to another street parking spot if it's parked on a designated 2-inch parking route.
Tully said the winter parking restrictions help keep the city's main streets clear for plows when it snows.
Lightfoot also said, while she understands the Chicago tradition of dibs -- claiming parking spots after digging them out by placing furniture, buckets, or other objects in the spaces -- she does not encourage it.
"As someone who has spent time digging out my car before I had access to a garage, I absolutely understand it, but the problem with dibs is ... when there's a new snowfall, and we need to clean the street, the dibs get in the way, so the dibs get washed away," she said. "I understand why people are doing it, but we don't encourage it."
Meantime, all six of the city's Department of Family and Support Services community centers also double as warming centers in the winter. Family and Support Services deputy commissioner Mark Sanders said the community centers are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, with extended hours as needed:
• Englewood Center, 1140 W. 79th Street, Chicago, IL 60620
• Garfield Center, 10 S. Kedzie Avenue, Chicago, IL 60612
• King Center, 4314 S. Cottage Grove, Chicago, IL 60653
• North Area, 845 W. Wilson Avenue, Chicago, IL 60640
• South Chicago, 8650 S. Commercial Avenue, Chicago, IL 60617
• Trina Davila, 4357 W. Armitage Avenue, Chicago, IL 60639
City officials said the warming centers will follow all COVID-19 protocols, including a requirement for people to wear masks at all times while inside the centers.
"So have no fear about going to a warming center. We will be following all COVID-19 indoor safety protocols. During extreme weather, these services, along with many others, will be available around the clock as needed," Lightfoot said.
Sanders said the warming centers also offer other services such as rental assistance, shelter placement, and domestic violence protection.
Chicago Buildings Commissioner Matthew Beaudet also reminded Chicago residents that, between Sept. 15 and June 1, landlords are required to maintain a minimum temperature of 68° from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. and at least 66° from 10:30 p.m. to 8: 30 a.m. Landlords face fines of up to $500 per day per violation if they do not provide sufficient heat.
The mayor also encouraged people to check on their neighbors during the winter, especially the elderly, not only because of the risks of snow and cold weather, but the added dangers of the pandemic.
"We must be all in this together. What I do, what you do, affects everyone else around you, and thinking that way and taking ownership of our own personal responsibility in this time of a pandemic is how we've gotten through this so far," she said.
Lightfoot said ComEd and Peoples Gas have suspended utility shutoffs through the end of March so that homeowners and businesses struggling to pay their bills won't have to worry about losing heat or electricity this winter. Since last year, the city also has halted water shutoffs due to unpaid bills.
The mayor said anyone who already has had their gas service shut off can call Peoples Gas to get reconnected at 866-556-6002.
Peoples Gas emergency response manager Eric Ayala said people should never use their stove or oven to heat their home, and should keep the areas around their furnace and water heater clear of combustible items or other clutter, and keep a fire extinguisher easily accessible in the kitchen at all times in case of a fire.
Ayala also said people should never operate an electric generator indoors, and should check the batteries on their carbon monoxide and smoke detectors to make sure they're operating properly.
Chicago residents also can sign up for emergency alerts about the weather or the pandemic at NotifyChicago.org.
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