Snow snarls travel in Chicago area

January 20, 2012 8:52:35 PM PST
The biggest winter storm of the season so far dumped more than half a foot of snow on the Chicago area Friday.

The snow made the Friday evening commute a nightmare on the roads and in the air. Travel times on some expressways topped more than three hours at the height of the storm. Flights were canceled and delayed at the airports, and CTA buses were rerouted off Lake Shore Drive.

Plows were out in force Friday night but that hasn't been enough in some areas. The cleanup may take some time because Chicagoland may get a little more snow before the storm moves out.

By 10 p.m., between three and nine inches had fallen across Chicagoland.

"Lake-effect snow will skirt the Illinois shore. There could be some minor accumulations over Cook and Lake County, mainly east of I-94," said ABC7's meteorologist Mike Caplan.

The snowstorm made for a slushy, slippery and slow commute. At one point, the Kennedy Expressway saw delays of two hours between O'Hare and downtown. On the Stevenson, it was two and a half hours outbound to the Tri-State. And on the Eisenhower, the trip was nearly four hours inbound from Thorndale.

As the snow intensified, drivers crawled on snow-covered streets with no discernible lanes. At the Ontario feeder ramp for the Kennedy and Dan Ryan, there was gridlock. "Oh, it's just wonderful. It's very slow. And you just have to be patient," one driver told ABC7.

At an Illinois Department of Transportation station, the salt piles were shrinking as IDOT's full complement of snow removal trucks were activated. The department got started Friday at 6 a.m. to battle the second storm of the season.

"We are advising people to be prepared for a very difficult, very long commute home this afternoon and evening," said Guy Tridgell, IDOT.

Tridgell says Fridays are already the busiest for the roadways. He said it is critical that motorists give way to IDOT vehicles trying to clear roads.

"We cannot move as fast as we would, say, if this were to be happening during the overnight hours. We are stuck in traffic just like everybody else," said Tridgell. "This is going to be a very difficult, very challenging and very long afternoon and evening commute for us."

In the city, road conditions were treacherous in many areas, with drivers spinning out at the intersection of Ogden, Chicago and Milwaukee avenues.

Fifteen buses that follow Lake Shore Drive were detoured off the lakefront road due to weather conditions around 3 p.m., according to the Chicago Transit Authority. The buses were rerouted onto nearby surface streets.

By around 8 p.m., all buses operating on Lake Shore Drive were back on their normal routes, CTA said.

Hazardous conditions also led IDOT to close the ramps on Lake Shore Drive and I-55.

Perhaps the best option Friday was the Metra, though many train cars were standing room only. Metra reported minimal delays.

"It looks like it's packed already," said Terry Campton, Metra passenger. "It just pulled in the station, and a mass mob headed out for the platform."

"I don't care how long it takes as long as I'm on the train going home," said Cheryl Gilman, Metra passenger.

Among those caught in Friday's mess was the Florida Panthers hockey team. The storm caused a one-hour delay to their game with the Blackhawks at the United Center.

Flights canceled at O'Hare, Midway

Hundreds of flights at Chicago's Midway and O'Hare airports were canceled Friday as the snow began to fall in the area.

Southwest Airlines canceled all flights from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. out of Midway Airport. Southwest expected to resume operations at 7 p.m. Friday evening. Flights originally scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. will be delayed until after 7 p.m. but not canceled. Airlines at Midway canceled more than 100 flights.

At O'Hare, the airlines canceled more than 600 inbound and outbound flights.

Western suburbs hit hard by snow

All 33 plow trucks in Joliet were out Friday afternoon as the city's new winter parking rules were scheduled to go into effect. Due to the intensity of the storm and the volume of complaints, however, the city said it will not enforce the new winter parking rules for the entire snow season.

Residents spent much of the day cleaning up what Mother Nature was quickly leaving behind.

"I don't like when we get it all at once," said Arlene Day.

For Jesus Pizano, the white stuff meant more green stuff.

"Going to help my dad clean off the driveway and hopefully go to work on plowing snow," said Pizano.

For the city's streets department, the snow made for a long day. City of Joliet roadways plow driver Jim Holmgren started his shift Friday morning and it won't end until the snow does.

"It's starting to pick up, the snow is, so it's getting a little tougher," said Holmgren. "Eat healthy, get rest and get ready for the snow."

Joliet roadways engineer Mike Eulitz and his staff, including Holmgren, knew the storm was coming and made preparations early.

"They hit the roads as soon as the snow started to collect on the streets," said Eulitz.

North, northwest suburbs dig out

People in the north and northwest suburbs had their fair share of wintry woes as well.

Slippery conditions and reduced visibility made for hazardous roadways in the Round Lake area of Lake County. Driving, walking, or even pushing a shopping cart were all made more difficult by the conditions.

Crews in Palatine were out battling the snow as it fell Friday afternoon. They used large front-end loaders to clear parking lots and push the snow into piles. Crews say they were trying to keep the snow from being packed down and turning to ice.

Snow tapers, cleanup begins

As the storm moved out, people ventured out to begin cleaning up.

Chris Triola of Addison got out his snowblower to clear his driveway. This is only the second time this year it has gotten any use, and that's fine with him.

"This is our second go around since it started snowing," said Triola.

Thick wet flakes fell, giving plow truck drivers some much needed work.

"This is the second go around. We'll deal with it," said Dave Heiner.

The storm also provided opportunities to do good deeds for some neighbors as well.

"I'm doing this for the neighbor," said Tony Cerani.

On the city's South Side, residents pulled out the snowblowers and shovels to try to clear some of the more significant snow in the area. And on the North Side the snow made for some slippery conditions.