Ice hampers travel by car, on foot

December 21, 2010 (CHICAGO)

And icy sidewalks were just one more obstacle for shoppers right before Christmas. People on Michigan Avenue battled the weather and the crowds.

On an icy walkway over a bridge in Bucktown, city crews broke it up and shoveled the crunchy snow for pedestrians.

"It's real icy today, about the type of work we put in for the streets and sanitation. It's no problem, we're hard workers, it's what we do," said Lewis Towsend, Chicago Dept. of Streets and Sanitation worker.

Low visibility and icy mist messed up the Tuesday morning commute. Ice-glazed expressways, like the Stevenson, caused some fender benders.

The city of Chicago dispatched 174 snow fighters Tuesday morning, while the Illinois Department of Transportation had 350 trucks out salting the roads.

It all started Monday night as the heavy snow came down with all of the snow plows out in full force. It didn't make a lot of a difference. There were dozens of crashes.

Alycia Cogswell and her sister and cousin headed to La Grange to see family for the holidays, but first they needed to scrape off their snow-covered car.

"It's just time consuming, tedious, and annoying because you gotta warm the car up, start the car," she said. "I'm not working this week, but for people who are working it's time consuming."

And who better to navigate the ice-covered roads than the Ice Mountain water guys?

"Absolutely horrible, I mean, no traction, slipping and sliding, extra stopping distance because you can't get no stopping whatsoever. And then you gotta worry about the people behind you paying attention," said Tony Campbell, driver.

"Real slippery, taking my time, basically the traffic has been bumper to bumper all day," said Derian Johnson, driver.

It was an early Christmas present for private snow plow operators who get paid to clear away parking lots and driveways.

"See that white stuff? That's white gold, baby! White gold!" said plow driver Jeff Starek. "Money falling from the sky, I got a full-time job, but I'm always dedicated to this place first."

While plow operators grin, some drivers frown when the snow comes down.

"All of a sudden, I came on this slick patch of snow, and I kind of slid," said Heather Stock, who crashed in a ditch.

Stock lost control on a patch of snow and ice. She wasn't the only one. Drivers across the city and suburbs found themselves in similar spots.

"One is off at 95th Street. Another car was swerving. It was up to me, so I made a little right and the car got close and then I lost control. As I lost control, I just spinned like maybe five or six times and hit the wall on this side," said Elvis Ramirez.

"My daughter called me. She came around the curve too fast. Maybe it was too slick for her. She panicked," said Mike Brooks.

Tow truck operators and emergency crews were busy responding to a number of accidents. When the weather gets messy like this, they say, drivers should be extra cautious.

Only minor cancellations and delays were reported at Chicago's airports Monday night and into early Tuesday morning, but many travelers were getting nervous. There could be another round of winter weather right before Christmas Eve.

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