Chicago digs out from snow, prepares for more

January 11, 2009 8:14:13 AM PST
A winter storm has buried Chicago and the suburbs in up to a foot of snow in some places.

The weekend has been spent digging out with plows on main streets and shovels on sidewalks, only to have the snow pile right back up again.

City crews with job to remove snow have not been able to buy a break, and the Chicago Dept. of Streets and Sanitation says it is braced for even more bad weather to come.

"What we're looking forward to this week is more snow to come. So, we're going to have a lot of buildup on side streets and curb lanes. So, it's important we start to maintain them right now," said Chicago Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Mike Picardi.

The city's entire fleet of snow fighting trucks reported being finished clearing side streets at 1:30 a.m. Sunday.

Chicago area residents say they can't get a break either.

"It's tiring, exhausting. I want to go inside," said Noel Santoyo, who was out shoveling snow.

"I was up north in the suburbs earlier, and they have more than we have down here. So not good," said Chicago resident Alan Avery. "We should be grateful for this."

One clearing of the Saturday snow wasn't enough because it fell almost non-stop in the city. About of foot of snow fell at O'Hare, and Midway airport totals show about 6.5 inches. Even with Chicago's full fleet of 274 snow fighting trucks on the streets, driving is still treacherous, thanks in large part to low visibility.

"We were getting predictions last night of two to four inches overnight, and we wound up with 10 inches this morning. This system just exploded when it came over Chicago, and as it exploded, it just dumped 10 inches of snow on us, when we were really expecting two to four or even six inches.," said Picardi.

The plan from Streets and Sanitation Department was to get at least one snow-clearing pass done on every city street before temperatures plunge overnight into Sunday. Crews do not want a repeat of earlier experiences when mounds of snow froze creating ridges and valleys that made driving, not to mention parallel parking, a challenge.

"With one pass, we won't create those large ridges around the parked cars that everyone is so frustrated with," said Picardi.

Flying in and out of Chicago hasn't been quick or easy in the last 24 hours. Saturday alone, 100 flights were cancelled at O'Hare, stranding countless passengers.

For those planning to drive around the city Saturday night, the main streets are in good shape. As for the side streets, crews planned to begin focusing on those at about 5 p.m. Saturday, and they planned on attacking the side streets for the several hours to try to get them down to pavement and get a good coating of salt on before the deep freeze settles in.

Snow dumped more on northern suburbs

Some of Chicago's northern suburbs have received the most snow over the past two days.

In Skokie, snow was still falling Saturday evening. By the time the storm passes, snow totals in some areas could exceed a foot.

So, Daytona beach weather wasn't looking so bad Saturday to Florida transplant Al Schoopman. Even after seven years, he's still trying to get used to Midwest winters.

"The first three years I was here, I was using cowboy boots to walk in and then do my driveway and pull the snow off. Finally, after a couple of times of hitting the pavement, I asked my wife for snow boots for Christmas," Schoopman said.

Once again, Chicagoland found itself in the grips of another winter storm. This one promises to push road crews and their salt supplies to a limit.

"Last year, we were out of salt by this time. This year, it's not a problem. There's ample supplies," said Karl Davis of the Gurnee Public Works Department.

The latest storm has delivered quick accumulation and a steady snowfall. That makes resident Julian Casse wish he had spent the money for a snow blower.

"We might have to buy a snow machine. Now, look what happened," he said.

As expected, side streets were barely navigable in some areas Saturday, and main arteries were not much better. Police were responding to numerous accidents during the day.

"A big part of the problem is people need to be more cautious when they're driving. They have to allow more time and more space in between cars," said Sgt. Jason Lococo of the Illinois State Police.

Residents in the south suburbs were trying to dig out Saturday, as well.

"There's a lot of snow out here, but I'm going to try to handle it the best way I can," said one resident.

Although most people said they would be glad to see the snow go, not everyone would.

"We really haven't had that many like fun days of snow because it's all gone. So I really like playing out here with my friends, and we just like to have a good time," said young Isabel Pyritz.

As the snow tapered off Saturday, main arteries like Gulf Road were expected to be cleared, then crews were set to begin to work on the side streets.

Authorities are asking drivers to be careful when traveling because the roadways are still very slick and snow-covered.