Storm leaves slick roads, lake-effect snow

January 8, 2010 4:39:03 PM PST
First it was the winter storm. Now the Chicago area is about to get hit by another blast of arctic air. With the wind chill, it could feel like 20 degrees below zero on Friday night. People in the Chicago area and Indiana are digging out from the storm. Lake effect snow cranked up overnight, especially in Indiana. Some places in the Hoosier state got socked with up to 10 inches of snow.

Residents in northwest Indiana still had shovels and snow blowers out Friday evening, trying to clean up from the recent winter storm.

Michigan City residents needed a bit of optimism Friday night. It had stopped snowing, but the big concern was that winds picked up, and there was a lot of blowing snow. Those conditions were dangerous, especially for drivers on the roads as nightfall approached.

Earlier in the day, the snow caused quite a mess on Interstate 94. Visibility was almost non-existent.

"Actually, I have been in the ditch a few times and able to pull myself out, but yeah, it's not a good one. [I] need a four-wheel drive right now," driver Derrick Penwell told ABC7 Chicago.

"[I'm] not scared that I will do something wrong, but I am scared for other drivers. They might hit me, and I am taking every precaution as I drive down the road," said driver Farai Rukunda.

Despite having 182 salt plows on the roads, Indiana transportation officials said, when the snow comes down so fast, there is no way to stay ahead of it.

"On the busy roads, such as a section of I-94?is about 1 1/2 hours to come through and circle back and hit it again. When it's falling inches per hour, you could be driving through inches of snow because the snowplow driver is moving through the route as fast as they can," said Joshua Bingham of the Indiana Dept. of Transportation .

The storm saved the biggest punch for the area between Portage and Michigan City, Ind. No sooner did some think the worst of it was over when another band hit.

LaPorte, Ind. residents were trying to dig out Friday with nonstop effort.

"I've lost track of how many times I was out early this morning and got things kind of cleared. Actually, a lot of this was from the snowplows going by and covering the end of the driveway again," resident Tom Larson said.

Residents in the LaPorte area could be getting even more snow soon.

Anyone driving in northwest Indiana, especially east of Portage, is advised that although it might not be snowing at the moment, lake effect bands of snow can develop quickly, and drivers are asked to give the plows extra room to operate, to accelerate gradually, and take the ramps very slowly. Some of them were completely snow-covered Friday.

Chicago cleans up, too

Cleanup was being complicated by steadily dropping temperatures. On Friday morning, many of Chicago's neighborhoods started the task of digging out.

Rush-hour commuters and drivers didn't have it much easier. Blowing and drifting snow became a challenge to navigate.

"It's not the main roads; that's fine. It's the side roads. I thought I should take the bus, and I don't have a shovel," said Kimberlyn Orticelli. "I could be here longer than I want to be."

Streets and Sanitation officials had all of their 275 snow-fighting trucks on patrol in hopes of finally beating back this round of winter weather. Most are glad to see an end to the snow and now just want to see an end to the cold blast of winter.

"I came out last night and shoveled the whole place, and it wasn't that cold," said Conor Casey, who said he had to do it all again Thursday morning. "Hopefully when I get home this evening there will be no snow in between and I'm done for the day."

Illinois Snow

The snow seemed to be tapering off around 5:30 a.m. downtown Friday as temperatures dropped and winds picked up.

The winds were making it difficult for city plows who have been out trying to keep ahead of this storm. Overnight, plows were able to clear arterial roads and even begin work on side streets, but as morning approached and the snow began to fall again, the work had to be redone.

In addition, the blowing and gusting wind were pushing the snow that had been plowed back on the roadway, making it slick and hazardous.

While most dread heading out into this weather, there was a group of college students out of the South Side who said they would make the best of it.

"We came out here with my friend's sled," said Alan Chen.

"I'm studying, of course!" said Anna Arsznault.

Air Travel

If you have a flight Friday, it is a good idea to check the status of your flight before you head out to the airport. Chicago airports are busy trying to get a schedule back on track since the snow Thursday meant big delays and hundreds of flight cancellations.

The Chicago Department of Aviation said Friday there were minor delays at O'Hare International Airport because crews were having to removing ice from aircraft before they could take off. There also were more than 50 cancellations.

There were no delays and just a few cancellations at Midway International Airport Friday morning.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)