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Chicago Weather: Winter snow storm cancels flights, disrupts commute

May 31, 2013 3:38:38 AM PDT
Snow plows and trucks cleared streets as commuters headed home from work, and air travelers tried to reschedule their canceled flights as a winter storm settled in over Chicago Tuesday.

A winter storm warning, is in effect until midnight Wednesday.

Plows, trucks clear city streets

The Chicago Dept. of Streets and Sanitation deployed its full feet of 284 plows onto the city's main routes and Lake Shore Drive, first. Next, they'll tackle side streets, focusing on areas near schools and public transit.

"As far as getting to the sides, you always want to make sure that the snowfall has stopped. Right now, they're talking somewhere between midnight and 1 a.m.," Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Charles Williams said.

City officials encouraged Chicago residents to track the progress of snow plows in their neighborhoods at www.chicagoshovels.org.

Many roads were problem free for drivers, even at the height of rush hour Tuesday.

Lake Shore Drive was smooth sailing.

The city was focused on clearing the main roads Tuesday night and once the snowfall stops, crews will plow the side streets.

In the meantime, people in residential areas were busy doing their own clearing of sidewalks and parking places bringing back that yearly tradition of staking their claim with a chair.

Billy Sturch makes his living on the snow. After a relatively dry winter, he says the snow storm is better late than never.

"It's a great day for us, really. Every time we see the snowflakes start to fall, we love it. It's like the Super Bowl for us when we come out here, you know," Sturch said.

The Illinois Dept. of Transportation (IDOT) said 360 plow trucks were in operation on Chicago-area expressways, as well.

This is the biggest snowfall of the winter for Chicago.

In Chicago's Kenwood neighborhood, Chung Tran started on the sidewalk in front of his building.

"I'm in charge of making sure the sidewalk is clear," Tran said. And Lee Edwards is in charge of cleaning off his car. He's using a push broom.

"Well, hey, it gets the job done," Edwards said. "And it gets me in and out in no time. So it's working for me."

Some people took advantage of the weather and had fun in the snow. The Second Annual Snowbrawl was held in Wicker Park. Do312 challenged Chicagoist and RedEye to a major snowball fight.

Suburbs dig out

In southwest suburban Tinley Park, Al Kravitz started clearing the driveway early.

"We'll do it in phases. I don't want it to be a foot tall, just makes it harder on the old man," Kravitz said, laughing.

Mike Sposato is one of a fleet of 12 snow truck drivers who are plowing Tinley Park streets.

"You always have to watch to see what these cars are doing. And when the visibility gets bad you have to be extra careful," Mike Sposato, snow plow driver said.

Snow plow operator was making up for lost time Tuesday. He's had few opportunities so far this winter to put his plow truck to good use.

"With the snow coming down, we concentrate on the intersections and curbs and areas where motorists will have to apply breaking those sorts of things to make it safe," Dale Schepers, public works director, said.

In the northwest suburbs, the Village of West Dundee ran seven snow plows on Tuesday. The challenge is keeping up as the snow falls.

Snow plow operator Mike Kirk was called in at 6:30 a.m. He expects to work until 10 p.m.

"It's been pretty light on overtime, not as profitable as last couple of years," Kirk said.

Thousands of travelers stranded in Chicago

More than 1,000 flights were canceled Tuesday at Chicago's Midway and O'Hare international airports. Many were canceled ahead of the storm on Monday.

At Midway Airport, 240 flights were canceled. Southwest Airlines expected to resume flight operations -- with some delays of one hour or more -- at 6 p.m. At O'Hare, airlines canceled approximately 900 flights, and report delays of 20 minutes or more for all other flights in and out of the airport.

Travelers are advised to check the status of their flights with ABC7's Flight Tracker before leaving home. Tuesday's storm was expected to have a ripple-effect on air travel across the country.

Public transit popular on snowy day

Many Chicago-area commuters ditched their cars and chose to take public transportation Tuesday. And many cut out of work a little early

"I'm going to have to go home and shovel," Larry Fabbri said.

"It's a little slower at work today, so I'm taking off while I can," Tracy Pankey said.

The path to Metra trains at Union Station was packed with people trying to beat the crowds by ending the work day early to catch the train home.

"I don't normally come home now. I was expecting it to be less crowded," Chris Ryan said. "It was like rush hour."

Even with the bus and train tracker, some CTA passengers said they knew it would be a long commute, especially with work on the Wells Street Bridge under way. The project continued through the snow storm, and Brown Line commuters who had to navigate their way in and out of the Loop say there were no problems because of the snow.

"They are running on time. It was easier than I thought," said one passenger.


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