CHICAGO — In Chicago, spring doesn't really begin until April 1.
While spring technically began March 20, many Chicagoans will mark the official passing of winter into spring on Monday when the city's Winter Overnight Parking ban ends and street-cleaning season begins.
The Department of Street and Sanitation's full fleet of 50 sweepers will hit the streets at 9 a.m. Monday to begin attacking the leaves, litter, dirt and other junk that has been accumulating curbside since November.
"The first cleaning and last cleaning of the season are always the most challenging," Streets & Sanitation spokeswoman Anne Sheahan said. "The first because of all the debris that has accumulated during the winter. The last [in November] because there are so many leaves on the street."
Street cleaning restrictions on side streets run from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. and take place about every four to six weeks depending on the area of the city. On most main streets, street sweeping occurs weekly from 7-9 a.m.
Car owners need to move vehicles off affected streets during scheduled, posted times and dates or risk a $50 parking ticket.
Permanent metal signs are used to warn drivers on major thoroughfares and in a handful of residential areas around the city. But on the vast majority of residential streets, the city posts temporary orange cardboard signs on trees, lampposts and other places along the block to warn drivers when the street sweeper cometh.
Sheahan said these temporary signs are typically posted 24 hours before a street's scheduled cleaning.
"Typically it's the day before — 24 hours in advance," Sheahan said.
Sheahan said Streets & Sanitation workers will sometimes post signs 48 hours in advance, but not usually more than that.
"We try to do it not too far out," Sheahan said. "We can't do it a week out because it can cause a little bit of confusion. We want people to be clear when we're coming."
One potentially confusing aspect of this year's season could be the change in ward boundaries slated to take effect in 2014. Some wards have already begun transitioning toward serving constituents within the new boundaries. But Streets & Sanitation will still be following the current boundaries.
"The Department of Streets & Sanitation is still operating with the current ward maps," Sheahan said. "Some wards are checking both areas, but we're still operating on the current ward maps. We're doing that to alleviate any confusion."
Sheahan had tips for drivers to avoid expensive parking tickets.
Make sure you check for signs when you park your car in the evening and then "park accordingly," she said. "We certainly don't want anyone getting a ticket."
In addition, don't re-park you car on the block before the signs are removed or the time restriction expires even if the street sweeper has come by.
"We ask people to give us the entire day to clean the street," Sheahan said. Street sweepers "try and come through again and do a better job of cleaning the curb lane."
If you're going out of town for a few days or just want to determine this year's street sweeping schedule for your home, Sheahan recommended utilizing the city's street sweeping website.
"If people are going for away on a trip we suggest they check the schedule and park on a street that won't see cleaning while they're out of town," she said.
A few other services help remind drivers when to move their vehicles including SweepAround and ChicagoStreetCleaning.com, although neither service has been updated with the city's 2013 schedule thus far.
Several aldermen, including Scott Waguespack (32nd), Tom Tunney (44th) and Joe Moreno (1st), provide a free email and text messaging service called TktTxt.com to alert their constituents when street sweeping is scheduled.
Chicago's street sweeping season lasts until Nov. 30.