Residents dig out; prepare for more snow
Those who are stuck shoveling are trying to stay ahead of the storm.
"I try to catch it when it slows down and then salt and maybe melt some," said Darryl Davis.
"I don't pick up nothing. I push. I learned the hard way," said Mike Caldwell, Maywood resident.
The area will remain in the grips of the first winter storm of the new year through Friday.
"I'm a Midwest girl. It's beautiful right now. Just wait another two weeks and I'll be tired of it," said Karyn Boston, commuter.
The snow brought in business to hardware stores where people wanted supplies.
"Winter's finally here. In December we only had 2 to 4 inches of snow. People brush that off. But with threats of 10 to 12 inches people take it seriously," said Brian O'Donnell, Ace Hardware.
"Welcome to Chicago. We get every extreme from the extreme hot to extreme cold," said Patti Haines.
Salt trucks out; Traffic snarled
Chicago's Department of Streets and Sanitation put all of its 275 snow-fighting trucks out on patrol. They clear the main streets first.
"We allocated $17million for the 2010 budget which began January 1st. We haven't spent any of that money until this morning," said Thomas Byrne, Chicago Dept. of Streets and Sanitation.
It appears Chicago area residents are opting to take trains instead of driving into the city: both Metra and CTA are reporting full trains and an uptick in ticket sales.
That also means smooth sailing on the highways -- at least for now. But earlier it was slow going.
Northwest suburbs deal with snowfall
There were several inches of snow on the ground in northwest suburban Elgin on Thursday afternoon.
Billy Rodriguez has been driving a salt truck in Elgin on and off for 23 years. On Thursday, he and his colleagues were working 12-hour shifts as they tried to keep the roads clear."We have a guy that's going to follow us. So we can spread it out twice as fast. One plow, one here, and another plow right behind me. And pushing the snow to the curb," said Rodriguez.
Elgin is also among a handful of cities already using a beat juice mixture in addition to salt to treat the roads. According to David Lawry, director of Elgin Public Works, it's proven just as effective and is cheaper and more environmentally friendly.
"It cuts down salt usage. It cuts down the amount of calcium chloride, the really corrosive materials that will rust your cars in the winter. And it helps keep the salt out of the water system," said Lawry.
Despite all the plowing, there were still some pretty slushy spots in downtown Elgin, though. But some drivers said it was still much better than it was early Thursday morning.
"Today's hard. But it's not, you know, the roads are pretty clear by now. So it's not too bad," said Carol Milligan, driver.
State police enact Emergency Snow Plan
As snow fell across the area, state police asked motorists to call 911 only in the case of serious crashes-- and not for minor accidents.
Illinois State Police have enacted their Emergency Snow Plan wherein drivers involved in minor accidents on Chicago highways who are uninjured are asked to exchange insurance information and not call police unless necessary.
If motorists become disabled or their vehicle are not drivable, they should stay with the vehicle and dial *999 or 911.
IDOT was attacking expressways with about 350 snowplows. The tollway has another 200 crews and 82,000 tons of salt. A fleet of snow trucks worked to clear the Tri-State Tollway by the O'Hare Oasis Thursday morning. But it was still slow going for many.
"Deal with it as best you can. If you're from Chicago, you're used to this," said Steve Harris. "It never gets any easier, but you're used to it. And I just dropped my daughter off at O'Hare. It took us two hours from downtown to O'Hare."
"Usually a 30-minute ride, turned into about an hour and a half," said Kina Brown.
Even if time more than doubles for a usual one-hour drive, Jackie Shayotovich from Indiana says it's all worth it when she looks up.
"I love it. Yeah, but I don't say that too loudly because everybody will pounce on me," she said.
Air travel delays
The snow was already affecting air traffic with United cancelling 130 flights -- 30 percent of its flights out of O'Hare International Airport. United was waiving many change fees for travelers looking to rebook their plans. American Airlines was also reportedly cancelling flights.
At O'Hare, airlines reported delays from 30 minutes to more than 90, and more than 400 flights were canceled in all at the airport.
At Midway, delays averaged 90 minutes on Thursday night with more than 100 cancelations.
City's snow plows hit streets
Chicago's Streets and Sanitation Dept. sent 175 snow plows out to the city's main streets Wednesday night, then dispatched an additional 100 trucks at 5 a.m. Thursday. The city is expected to see at least four inches of snow.
City and county crews have hit the streets early Thursday in preparation for a storm that could drop as much as a foot of snow on the Chicago area by Friday morning.
Streets and San took the opportunity Thursday to refute reports that 40 percent of the 2010 snow-fighting budget had already been spent.
"We allocated $17 million for snow removal annually. Our budget for this year, 2010, began January 1, and we haven't spent any snow removal in 2010 until this morning on our first 2010 storm. So the $17 million budget is fully intact," said Thomas Byrne, Streets and Sanitation commissioner.
Winter Storm Warning in effect until Friday noon.
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for northern Illinois and northeast Indiana -- including Cook, DuPage, Lake and Will counties -- that will remain in effect until noon Friday, according to the weather service's Web site. A winter storm warning for heavy snow is issued when six or more inches of snow is predicted.