BRIDGEPORT — Jake Kowalski, 33, got a kick out of his neighbors' battles to free their cars from the snow fortresses that Mother Nature and city snowplows built around their block Sunday night.
"I stayed up all night watching them get stuck down here. It was kind of funny," said Kowalski in front of his Bridgeport home.
Monday afternoon, Kowalski left the jokes inside and suited up in a face mask, snowboarding goggles and layers of jackets to dig his own car and his wife's out of the nearly two feet of snow.
"This guy's a beast with four wheel drive but my wife's [Dodge] Journey is a different story," Kowalski said pointing to his SUV.
During a media conference Monday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel vowed that "none of us will rest until everyone has a plowed and passable street."
Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Charles William said the department began clearing side streets after spending most of the weekend clearing main streets after the 19-plus-inch barrage of snow that hit the city this weekend.
"Over 350 snow removal vehicles have been salting and plowing neighborhood streets since 8:30 a.m. this morning, " Williams said. "The city will focus on clearing neighborhoods streets this afternoon and through the evening."
"We focus first on arterial streets because they are the life blood of the city, that's why are main focus is there initially before moving into side streets.
"We are working on side street as we speak ... and we are going to continue until they are cleared," Williams said.
On his block, Kowalski estimated it would take nearly two hours to dig out the two cars on the one-way street, which wasn't too bad considering some cars on the street had snow piled up to their trunks after plows began clearing the street around 4 a.m.
While he was impressed with how often the snow plows were making the rounds, it was becoming problematic as he dug his truck free.
"It's really disconcerting when the plows come through and put it back where you just cleared," Kowalski said.
In addition to the 350 snowplows, another 150 pieces of heavy equipment are being used "to clear streets, remove snow piles resulting from plowing efforts, and address snow around vital public safety sites like hospitals, police and fire stations, and schools," the department said in an earlier press release.
An employee for the department said crews are focusing on clearing streets for public safety and would not be concerned with ticketing residents for not shoveling. Clearing the side streets would take at least eight hours, the employee said.
That wasn't fast enough for some residents, who took to social media to complain about their snow-covered streets. Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) — who is running for mayor — joined the chorus.
"Friends: How is your side street doing? I know I had a hell of a time getting to the office today, and I am sure you did too," he wrote in an email to supporters. "Election day is February 24th and early voting starts on the 9th."
This weekend's weather forced all city departments — including Streets and Sanitation, Transportation, Water Management, and Fleet and Facility Management — to mobilize all their heavy equipment to keep the streets clear.
Despite the 19 inches of snow, Kowalski said it was nowhere near the worst he's seen since living in Bridgeport for the last seven years.
"Two years ago. That was the worst by far," Kowalski said.
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