Snowstorm cleanup continues

February 1, 2008 9:06:22 PM PST
Crews were cleaning up and kids were having fun after a major snowstorm dumped as much as a foot of snow on the Chicago area. The city has rolled out all of its salt trucks and snowplows to try to get a handle on the snow. Even with that entire fleet mobilized, it could still be a while before all the side streets are cleared.

The official snow total for Chicago was seven and a half inches. Up to a foot of snow fell in some suburbs. Schools in the city were open Friday, but hundreds of students in the suburbs were home because of the snow.

The Chicago Public School District was open for business Friday. Because of the snow, some buses arrived at the school more than an hour and a half late. But according to the district spokesperson, that's better than canceling class.

Buses had to navigate tricky side streets in order to pick up and drop off students. Parents also needed much more time.

"It took like, 40 minutes to come here. It's hardly like on the regular days, it's only like 15 minutes," said parent Naseer Jadoon.

John Tobar said it was the right decision. He said he wants his two kids to be in school learning, regardless of the weather.

But are Chicago Public Schools daycare facilities or schools? Some teachers say both.

"I think one of the good things about having the school open is that kids have a warm place to go to, and they can get a meal here, too - at least one," said teacher Karry Martin.

Snow days for the Chicago Public School District are extremely rare. The last time there was a snow day was December 12, 2000. It has been more than seven years.

The snow brought other unforeseen problems. Julie Jacobs was moving to L.A. Friday.

"I didn't think the snow would actually happen the way they said it was going to, a little bit of a challenge this morning," she said.

For cross country skiers, like Laurie Gorby, the weather is perfect.

"You can't ask for better. It's snowy. Skiing this afternoon, you can't ask for a better day," she said.

But this winter storm is also being blamed for at least six deaths on Illinois roadways. Authorities cautioned people against driving too fast, especially with an SUV. Do not pass snow plows on big roads, especially Lakeshore Drive. And authorities say drivers should really lend a hand, make a conscious effort for neighbors, especially the elderly.

Thousands of travelers were stranded at Chicago's airports after about 500 flights were canceled.

There's been a lot of challenging weather so far in this winter, 2008, but still Chicagoans had to make some big mental adjustments to be able to get through Friday.

A few students from Miami, in town for a model Parliament conference, were not prepared for this.

"I have never been in this kind of weather before. It's really cold," said student Gisele Carratala.

But on a day when snow was falling for nearly 24 hours, Chicagoans got up early to tackle commutes often double their normal length. And others slid, scraped and shoveled to get out of wintry jams.

"I came down, and I didn't expect any of it. It was completely covered. I don't know. Maybe the plows pushed all the snow over or something. I got it out pretty easily," said Ryan Chambers, South Loop.

Chicago streets and sanitation crews cleared the city's arterial roads to the point where water runs, proof that pathways would remain clear.

"If you pull your trucks off the arterials while there is a storm going, they will take accumulation. Eventually they could become impassable. That's a dangerous situation. The minute we get a letup, that's when we start going to the side streets. We do our mop up work on the main streets, start cleaning up the curb lanes and the turn lanes. Then we go to the sides," said Matt Smith, Streets & Sanitation spokesperson.

Typical of the attitude in the South Loop, A.C. Regaulus decided that no matter what the weather was, he was not going to take his nurse's advice.

"He tried to keep me in today. I said no, I must get outside. I said as long as the main streets are clear, I will reach my destination," said Regaulus.

Tthe snowstorm that was moving through the area really did clear out, as expected, by about noon. Streets and sanitation was hoping for a little more sunshine than we got this afternoon, something to melt all of this snow that has fallen all around the Chicago region.

The Chicago Fire Department says there was no spike in 911 calls.

Most of the suburbs got their fair share of snow as well, maybe a bit too much. A snow plow driver in south suburban Country Club Hills were very much in demand, cleaning up some of the snow-filled parking lots.

Salt trucks tried to ease the way for drivers on I-57, but what seemed like a never-ending snowfall kept all the lanes pretty much covered through the night and early morning.

"A pain in the butt. I was supposed to be to work about 40 minutes ago. It's taken me a good half-hour to dig myself out of here," said Anu Amarnath, motorist.

The latest winter blast brought heavy, wet snow and high winds -- which made roadways all but impassable.

"It's slushy. It's like going down a water slide and you hit the splash at the bottom underneath the bridge down there," said James Baranyk, commuter.

Snow sat nearly a foot deep in Downers Grove. There was so much snow the village crews piled the snow for now and planned to remove it later.

"I was actually out clearing the cul-de-sac this morning. When we have a snow like this, it's kind of, all hands on deck, as far as that goes. Get everybody out into the field and do what we can, get things clear as soon as we can," said Stan Balicki, Downers Grove Public Works.

While the village focuses on main streets, homeowners have their own properties to clear. John Zochowski said he is grateful to be using his riding lawnmower for an eighth winter.

"Even a little bit of snow? the little lady who lives down the block and do her driveway for her, run up and down the block, do the sidewalks. I get more enjoyment out of it than anything. I have fun doing it," he said.

For many working parents, Friday was particularly tricky as many of the schools had a snow day.

In order to work Friday morning from home, Frank Carr pretended there was school in order to drop his preschooler at daycare without incident. Once she was at daycare, he told his older sons they'd be staying home.

"Because I had to do a lot of work today, I figured the only way to get her to go would be to not tell anyone that it was a snow day until later. So we all went to school and pretended that the boys were going to school and dropped her off so she would go peacefully," Carr said.

"Our dad tricked us because our sister had to go to a daycare," said Carr's young son. "We didn't want her to know that."

Hundreds of flights at Chicago's airports have been delayed or canceled because of the storm. The city's department of aviation reported that planes flying in and out of O'Hare are running an average of 45 minutes behind schedule. About 500 flights have been canceled. At Midway, delays were averaging 30 to 90 minutes with at least 40 canceled flights.

Northern Indiana is also getting socked by this storm. Plows hit the airport runways in Fort Wayne hoping to clear the way for flights. Some passengers there were delayed because of weather problems for flights heading to Chicago and Detroit. Many schools and businesses also closed Friday in northern Indiana.

A steady snow began to fall before dawn causing problems for just about anyone who ventured outside. By daylight, commuters and homeowners alike were hoping for some relief by Friday afternoon. Until then, Patricia Martin says she will enjoy our winter wonderland.

"I like it. I like it maybe because I don't drive, but I like it. If I didn't want to live here, then I would move somewhere else where there is no snow. But I don't mind. It's fine," said Patricia Martin.

Snowplows are out in full force in the south suburbs -- which were hit hardest by the storm.

"Mother nature is doing wonders for us. We could be here until tomorrow morning, for all we know. Last time we had that good snow right before Christmas, we were up here 11 and a half hours and it wasn't as bad as it is right now," said Randy Cotton, Snow Plow Driver.

Some residents had trouble getting out of their driveways Friday morning. In Markham, a man and his daughter paired up to clear their driveway, using the snow blower on the first path and a shovel on the second.

"He has been doing it for years. I don't think it's too bad. We have got the snow blower," said Cindy Paulsen.

"I got to back the car out to get the snow blower out. Other than that, it's wintertime in Chicago," said Gene Paulsen.

Those who did manage to make it out of their driveways had a hard time navigating the roads and expressways. On I-57, all lanes were completely snow-covered despite I-DOT's best efforts.

It appears many commuters either stayed home or took the railways in to work. The delays on the area expressways were minimal.