Flights resume at Midway, O'Hare

February 3, 2011 8:24:36 PM PST
More than 1,000 flights were canceled at O'Hare and Midway Thursday because of lingering effects from the blizzard.

It is far from back to normal at O'Hare. But there is activity. Flights are taking off and landing.

The airlines cancelled nearly half of their flights Thursday because they are still trying to get planes where they are supposed to be, but the airport itself is ready, according to the Department of Aviation.

"We have given the FAA tower what they need, and the airlines, to operate 112 rate, which is our optimum rate," said Bill Palivos, Department of Aviation.

Clearing nearly 2 feet of snow from 22 million square feet of runway space is a massive operation. But, in order for planes to take off and land, it's got to be done. And quickly.

That's why the city Department of Aviation monitors it all from the old FAA tower. Clearing the runways is a process that takes several steps, starting with broom sweeper trucks that remove the bulk of the snow before plows push it away. Later the runways get chemical treatment. There is no salt allowed.

"We've called out everybody that we've had," said Palivos.

But, despite the city's efforts, many would-be travelers will have to wait another day before their flights leave.

"We tried to get out. Each time there's been a cancellation somewhere along the way," said Mic Wiener, Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church.

Wiener's church group is trying to get to Louisiana where they plan to set up a special interactive joint broadcast of their church service from the maximum security prison in Angola-- if they can make it there.

"What are you going to do? You just wait and hope tomorrow comes," said Pastor Bert Dejong.

Meanwhile, work continues on the airfield where giant snow melters turn the thousands of tons of snow into water that goes into the storm sewer.

Crews have pushed the snow from the runways into piles in remote areas around the airport--. 20 of them in all. By Friday, they say they should have all of the snow melted.