Chicagoland digs out, braces for bitter cold

February 2, 2011 8:48:03 PM PST
Chicago officials are warning about some dangerous cold that's moving in. They're worried about that as they still try to clear both the main and side streets.

All over the city, more than 400 snow plows and garbage trucks are trying to clear the main thorough fares and side street, but it has been a challenge for the drivers.

"Real hectic," said snowplow driver Tonisha McBride.

"Streets and Sanitation crews have been getting the main routes in good shape and are also making progress in clearing Lake Shore Drive. Once these key routes are taken care of, we'll begin the challenging task of clearing Chicago's 3,300 miles of side streets," said OEMC head Jose Santiago.

Some of the side streets haven't been plowed at all, and the snow can pile up even higher after the plows make a pass on the intersecting streets.

Dale Williams was literally using his manpower to make a path so he could get his car out that had been stuck for 24 hours in the middle of Normal Street.

"This is really hard, but I'm making my way through it so I can get home 50 blocks away," said Williams

After six hours of shoveling, and lots of help from friends and neighbors, Williams made it out to safety.

Emergency Closings

Now that the snow has stopped falling, the bitter cold is setting in and city officials are preparing for the second part of this blizzard, as they warn residents to be mindful of the dangers the combination weather can bring.

"We know that many people will want to be leaving their homes. And so we would like to reiterate, if you can stay indoors, please stay indoors on Thursday," said Mary Ellen Caron, Chicago Family & Support Services.

At Malcolm X College Wednesday night the American Red Cross set up a warming center for those who needed shelter from the bitter cold that is forecast over the next couple of days.

"We're set up for tonight to be on standby for the city in case something of massive proportions happens. Something like last night, where on Lake Shore Drive you had several hundred motorists who were stranded," said Josh Morton, American Red Cross.

Streets and Sanitation officials say that most of the major arterial streets have been cleared away. So now they have to tackle the 3,300 miles of side streets. They also said Thursday they will begin the process of clearing the areas around the schools, senior citizen housing, and medical centers.

For many city students, Wednesday was their first snow day ever, and already they're getting their second one Thursday. It's the first time in 12 years Chicago Public Schools has declared snow days.

But district officials say there really wasn't much choice, since many teachers, students and personnel simply can't get to school.

"Our greatest concern has been the loss of power in 26 of our schools, that is especially important given the drop in temperatures that is predicted," said CPS interim superintendent Terry Mazany. "And we are working very closely with ComEd, that has been a terrific partner, to make sure that we are able to restore power and not experience freezing pipes and bursting pipes. That would further delay the opening of our buildings."

The district plans to decide Thursday if it will open schools on Friday, but they've already decided there will be no bus service until at least Monday.

The number of school closings will likely grow overnight. Find a complete list here.

Thousands of people in the Chicago area are still without power because of the winter storm. ComEd was working late into the night to restore electricity to 14,200 customers. Of those, 12,100 of them live in the city of Chicago.

And expanded flight operations are expected to resume Thursday at O'Hare and Midway airports. A fleet of snow blowers charged along the only open runway at O'Hare on Wednesday. Airlines canceled 2,200 flights at O'Hare. There were only a handful of cargo and passenger flights in and out at that airport. At Midway Airport, more than 400 flights were scrubbed.

Travelers scheduled to fly out Thursday are strongly urged to call ahead for heading to the airport.