Your NPR news source
A Chicago snow plow

A plow truck clears snow on the side of the street on W Addison St in Lakeview, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. | Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Anthony Vazquez

What’s it like to be a snow plow driver in Chicago?

Whether it’s your first winter in Chicago or your 40th, there’s no denying the season’s unforgiving weather. From below-freezing temperatures to blustering blizzards, navigating the Windy City in these months can be a challenge. Fortunately for Chicagoans, during a snowstorm, the Department of Streets and Sanitation has 300 city snow plow truck drivers per shift at the ready to keep the roads clear of snow and ice.

In this episode, Curious City’s Maggie Sivit and JP Swenson brave the first snowstorm of the season to try to flag down a snow plow driver. That’s because over the years so many listeners have written in asking us what it takes to keep Chicago’s streets plowed in the winter.

But what starts as a joyful effort goes south as the snow piles up and morale dips down. Especially when not a single driver will stop to talk with them. (They were, as you can imagine, busy plowing the streets.) Luckily, Mark Nichol, a Chicago snow plow driver of 40 years, shares what it’s like to be in his boots on a snowy day.

Plus, we revisit an especially unique winter storm — the Chicago Blizzard of 1967 — when it snowed for 29 hours straight. With nowhere left to dump the snow, the Department of Streets and Sanitation began shoveling the snow into freight trains heading south. Reporter Logan Jaffe welcomes you aboard the superb PR stunt that followed.

More From This Show
Chicago’s geological history stretches back more than 400 million years. The region was once an underwater reef and, later, covered in ice.
Native Americans have always lived in Chicago, but in the mid-20th century they established a cultural enclave in Uptown, anchored by community centers and social connections.