LSD back open, drivers hunt for towed cars

February 3, 2011 8:42:43 PM PST
Chicago's not back to normal yet, but traffic is moving on Lake Shore Drive again.

CTA bus service on Lake Shore Drive resumed in time for the Thursday evening rush.

Drivers whose abandoned cars were relocated by tow trucks can now claim their vehicles, which were taken to several lots around the city.

Nearly 1,000 people left their vehicles on Lake Shore Drive after several crashes led to a backup during Blizzard 2011. Hundreds of people were evacuated by firefighters -- some on snowmobiles -- during the storm. On Thursday, OEMC defended its response to those trapped on Lake Shore Drive.

"It was not a matter of not having any equipment, it was the matter of Mother Nature and the quick snowfall and the wind that caused that bottleneck," said Robert Hoff, Chicago Fire Department.

Hoff said people were rescued by emergency responders as they wanted to leave their vehicles.

"We had a woman who was a double amputee, who was in a car, for example, who wanted to come out of her car. She was put on a snowmobile, taken to a safe haven," Hoff said. "Later on in the night, the people that didn't want to leave their car, we understand that, but we got to make a decision to say, 'Hey, this is it.'"

Once the decision was made, Hoff said everything went smoothly.

"The bottom line was it worked," said Robert Hoff, Chicago Fire Department, about the evacuation of Lake Shore Drive.

Mayor Richard M. Daley's Chief of Staff Raymond Orozco called the situation on Lake Shore Drive "fluid" during the height of the storm.

Daley said Thursday he has complete confidence in his team and the decision on when to close Lake Shore Drive.

"They closed (Lake Shore Drive) appropriately, at 7:50 p.m. They made the decision. I have confidence in these people making the decision."

Drivers locate towed vehicles

Jeshua Enriquez waited 12 hours on Lake Shore Drive and another 30 hours for word on his car.

"It seems kind of disorganized," said Enriquez. "I was told yesterday to call 311. It was always busy. I finally got through, and they said, 'We don't have any information yet. Try again later.' Then it actually said the number you've dialed is out of order or something like that, so 311 didn't exist for awhile."

It wasn't until the city set up an online database for vehicle owners on that Enriquez finally located his car -- and it was out of fuel.

"I have to wait until somebody comes and brings me some gas," Enriquez said.

The city is holding vehicles in six parking lots near Lake Shore Drive.

Hannah Berkye and her brother went to four of them before finally finding her car.

"Oh lord, I've walked so many miles this morning," Berkye said. "My legs were freezing."

Lake Shore Drive has been plowed and salted but remains a work in progress.

"As with many of the streets after the storm, lanes may be narrow or reduced in places, so again we ask that motorists please proceed with caution," said Ray Orozco, Mayor Daley's chief of staff.

Ramps that had been snow-covered and impassable Thursday morning are now open, including those at 47th Street and 53rd.

After being halted earlier Thursday, CTA bus service on Lake Shore Drive is up and running for the evening rush, though Enriquez wishes it had been sooner.

"I live all the way up by Hollywood," said Enriquez, "so I took the red line to Roosevelt, and then I walked down to the museum campus, and through the museum campus, and down all of Soldier Field, and followed all the signs to get to parking."

After waiting 45 minutes, Enriquez finally got his free fill-up.

ABC7 asked Enriquez if he plans on any long roadtrips in the future.

"I'd rather just stay home," he said.

Nearly 48 hours after Enriquez's ordeal began, his drive home was finally over.

Almost 40 hours after he left his vehicle, Jon Auld located his car, which he had to abandon on Lake Shore Drive late Tuesday night.

"It started to turn on the drive at 10 minutes to 5 p.m., got all the way up to Diversey Harbor, came to a stop around 7 , 7:30 p.m. Then the fire department came at 1:15 a.m., told us they were evacuating the drive," Auld said.

The parking lot near Wilson and Lake Shore Drive is one of several places where city officials towed cars. The last few of hundreds of vehicles were cleared from Lake Shore Drive early Thursday morning. Plows and snow removal trucks swept through and the north part of the drive was officially up and running again before 6 a.m.

"I called 311... That's why I came over here," said Babajige Rosiji, abandoned car at LSD.

Dorothy Murphy said a 311 representative directed her to the wrong place. But someone on site helped her figure out in which lot to find her car.

"I'm a native Chicagoan. I should have known better than getting on the Drive with those high winds. But again, I thought it would be later that it would become dangerous and I assume they did, too," said Dorothy Murphy.

Murphy was among the few to place the blame squarely on herself.

Motorists who have left vehicles on Lake Shore Drive should call 311 to recover their relocated vehicles or look at the city's list online, There will not be a charge to drivers for the towing.

City leaders stand behind decision to keep Lake Shore Drive open saying they needed a main road available to get people home from work and they also told drivers to stay off the roads.