Winter makes a comeback in the Chicago area

March 29, 2009 4:12:52 PM PDT
Rain, sleet and snow created a mess for both drivers and runners Sunday.The spring snow storm hit hardest in north suburban Gurnee, dumping seven inches. The heavy, wet snow and the wind brought down some trees and branches and also created a mess in the city of Chicago.

At the height of the storm, the combination of heavy snow and winds knocked out power to 43,000 customers.

The outages hit hardest in northern suburbs like Libertyville, Crystal Lake and Elgin. At 4 p.m. Sunday, the number of outages was down to 17,400 customers.

Anyone needing to report an outage is asked to call 1-800-EDISON1.

The snow also hit as athletes were taking part in the first big running event of the spring, the Shamrock Shuffle.

City crews were out all morning plowing streets for runners and drivers alike.

Driver Cathy Mooney just couldn't believe it: snow in late March.

"Last week, I put out my patio furniture and laid mulch. Now, I had to put the stuff away," she said.

March typically comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, but there was no sign of that as parts of Chicagoland were walloped by rain, sleet and snow that began overnight and continued most of the day.

While some early morning motorists were caught off-guard by the spring surprise, city crews were not. By 6 a.m. Sunday, the city had 184 snow plows and snow-fighting trucks traversing main roads and side streets.

Authorities said forecasters had told them that although this weekend's heavy, slushy snow is not a typical occurrence, it was certainly not unexpected or unusual.

"This is something we knew was coming. It was just a matter of having it come here," said Matt Smith of the Department of Streets and Sanitation.

But despite temperatures hovering in the low 30s and a steady snowfall, close to 14,000 runners braved Chicago's less-than-spring-like weather for Sunday's Shamrock Shuffle 8K race.

While more than double that number originally registered for the 30th anniversary of the running of the race, Mother Nature couldn't scare off those determined to ring in spring no matter what.

"We were focused, right? Yeah, we were coming no matter what. Rain, sleet, snow, we'll be here," said Shamrock Shuffle participants Alex Maya and Rosalba Lopez.

Northern suburbs hit hardest by spring snow storm

The biggest snow fall came down in the suburbs to the north and northwest of Chicago.

Gurnee residents would have preferred to do without the change of scenery, especially Mary Potter Smith, whom the snow storm woke up early Sunday.

"About ten after five, all the walls shook. It fell like an earthquake or a plan hit us. And, that's when the first tree came down and took the corner of house," she said.

Potter Smith also says all she could do was look out the window and watch other trees in her neighborhood fall. The snow was so wet and heavy, branches were down all over the place.

However, before cleaning up the trees, brushing off the car and snow-blowing the driveway were the first orders of business Sunday morning. Nancy Nester was hoping she wouldn't have to use the snow blower again this year. Oh, well.

"Already put it away and got it out yesterday just to be ready," Nester said.

By mid-morning, the snow had tapered off in the northern suburbs. But earlier, there were blizzard-like conditions. From the Lake Forest Oasis, it was tough to see the IDOT plows on the Toll Road.

Several drivers decided to take a break from the roads and wait it out at the Oasis.

"I'm heading up to Lake Geneva for a yoga conference, and it's been terrible coming from Oak Park," said Jennifer Benson.

"It's horrible. I got off at the first exit. I said, 'I'm just going to get off. I'm not driving anymore,'" Mary Jackson said.

Jackson and her friends were on their way back to Wisconsin from Florida. From sand to snow, this is not what many returning spring breakers were expecting.

"We left Panama City where it was 83 degress and sunny, and we're going up to Milwaukee Mike Rytkonen said.