Weather blamed for ramp closures, accidents

March 22, 2008 9:13:07 AM PDT
The bad weather is being blamed for several accidents.State police had to close several ramps overnight on the Illinois Tollway.

The Stevenson Expressway ramp to southbound I-355 was shut down for several hours due to accidents. State police have reopened that ramp.

In Oak Brook, the northbound Tri-State Tollway to the westbound I-88 ramp had to be shut down earlier Saturday morning. Fire department officials on the scene say black ice caused multiple accidents at that location.

No serious injuries were reported. That ramp is back open this morning.

Part of the Chicago Skyway was shut down earlier Saturday morning for about an hour.

Police say a car lost control and struck a guard wall. A chain reaction resulted in an eight-vehicle pileup.

Icy conditions were a factor in the crash.

No serious injuries have been reported.

The storm system dumped two to 11 inches of heavy, wet snow on parts of the Chicago area. The most accumulation is north and west of the city, particularly near Gurnee where the 11-inch mark was met.

Six to nine inch totals have been seen throughout most of Lake County. Here's a list of snow totals as of Friday night:

Gurnee - 11"
Waukegan - 9"
Evanston - 6"
Elk Grove - 5.9"
Schaumburg - 5.2"
St. Charles - 5.0"
O'Hare - 4.7"
Downers Grove - 3.8"
Oak Brook - 3.5"
Midway - 2.4"

Unseasonable Weather

On I-294 near the Lake Forest Oasis, the northbound lanes were absolutely crawling around 4 p.m. Friday, while southbound traffic was moving a little quicker. Cars southbound were moving 30 to 40 mile per hour. Tow trucks throughout Lake County helped vehicles out of ditches. Traffic along I-294 was cautiously moving along while IDOT crews and state troopers kept an eye out.

"It's normal. I'm just glad to see it's moving," said Warren Liljegren.

The village of Gurnee had its full fleet of 26 trucks out in full force Friday. Four hundred fifty tons of salt were ready to go. One truck is filled up; another truck is right behind it ready to head back out.

"A bad storm, we can go through 200 tons, so we're in decent shape for salt. Our main concern right now is the river," said Jim Hayner, village administrator, Gurnee.

The Des Plaines River has gone down about 10 inches since Tuesday. But it still looked threatening. After the snow melts, who knows what the river will look like. That's why the village said it has plenty of sand ready to go just in case.

"If we get 12 inches of snow it will depend on how fast it melts as far as where we're at with the river," said motorist Sarah Harris.

The side streets were moving even slower than the highways. Motorists say Friday was not a fun afternoon to be driving in.

"I normally don't stop. I'm actually going to Melrose Park right now. And I actually had to stop to clean off my car," said Harris.

"It's rough. It's definitely not recommended. We're heading to southern Illinois, coming from the valley. And it's, we were expecting a five-hour trip. And we left at 10:45 this morning. About three in the afternoon, and we're probably halfway there," said Mike Allen, motorist.

Although spring arrived Thursday, many Chicagoans had winter on their minds as they dealt with the latest snow storm.

"I like snow, but time for spring. Yesterday was 50 or whatever. Come on," said Larry Lund, Palatine resident.

"It's very disheartening to see all this coming out of the sky, and it's the end of March," said Nick Schrup, stranded traveler.

"Wasn't yesterday the first day of spring? That's Chicago. Got to love it or go some place else. Got to roll with the punches on this one," said Bill Strawn, limo driver.

"Yesterday was a beautiful day and we're getting ready for a spring day, getting ready the spring flowers and now you got this. So just take it one day at a time," said Ken Kinsch, limo driver.

Flight Cancelations, Delays

The storm caused hundreds of flight cancellations at Chicago's airports.

Delays at O'Hare International Airport lasted up to two hours and 450 flights were canceled. At Midway International Airport, delays were about an hour and a half and 15 flights were canceled.

"They proactively canceled a lot of flights yesterday. So a lot of passengers were notified," said Karen Pride, Chicago Department of Aviation.

The cancellations put a damper on many travelers' spring break plans.

"They canceled it. Weather, apparently in this case. So we're trying to find out how we can make another arrangement here," said Schrup.

For one group of Elgin teachers, it's not a matter if they can get to Phoenix but how they will get there.

"We have Cubs-Sox tickets. We got to get there," said Brigid Rakow. "We don't want to lose our tickets. We wanted to see the game. And we're going to go out Midway.

Renting a car turned out to be their only option. The Thaos are also having to drive and trying to get to Tampa, but their only choice seems to be a Saturday morning flight out of Green Bay.

"I have a broken leg, so I was hoping I could sit on the beach and build a sand castle and prop it up. But I might be doing it in the snow bank. I'm not sure," said Nan Thao.

Despite the cancellations at both airports, there are still many flights scheduled to depart, albeit with delays.

"We are off to Palm Springs, California, where it's about 85 and sunny today. And this snow is not helping that at all," said Ryan Lazar.

Some were trying to make the best of the situation.

"The five of us were headed to North Carolina and they warned us it was canceled. Second year it's happened to us. So, while we were in line, we rented a large vehicle and we're just going to drive," said Cassie Carlson, stranded traveler.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.


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