Chicago Weather: Heavy snow, crashes slow evening commute

February 17, 2014 (CHICAGO)

PHOTOS: Thundersnow! strikes Chicago

Most parts of Chicago and the suburbs saw three to six inches of accumulation Monday, with up to eight inches in some isolated areas. Thundersnow was reported as the heaviest bands moved though Chicago and the suburbs.

The storm hit just as many were leaving downtown Chicago.

"It's like being in a water slide. You're all over the place. Traction as you get into another lane is a little crazy," said Ben Robertson, motorist.

At the Circle Interchange, a jackknifed semi created another mess Monday. Travel times on some expressways ballooned past three hours with IDOT unable to clear pavement.

"When you're dealing with rush hour traffic, those trucks have nowhere to go. They're stuck in traffic just like the motorists are," said Jae Miller, IDOT spokesperson.

For residents, the snowblowing, shoveling and scraping have been endless this winter. Here's a not-so-fun fact: It has snowed on 30 of the 48 days since January 1.

"I've jumped my car at least six times this winter. Taking these walks with the dog were cathartic in December and January but it's getting really old in February," said Jeff Hunt, Hinsdale resident.

IDOT says conditions have improved in some areas since the evening rush, and they plan to have hundreds of trucks deployed through the early morning hours on Tuesday.

Air, road travel impacted by snow

More than 1,100 Illinois Department of Transportation snow removal trucks are out across the state. IDOT officials are warning drivers to be especially careful on slick bridges.

The Illinois Tollway deployed its full fleet of 183 snowplows ahead of the storm. They are spreading salt and plowing the 286-mile Tollway system. The trucks often work in tandem, and drivers should move over and slow down for snow removal crews.

Indiana State Police say that despite near white-out conditions in northwest Indiana, no major accidents were reported as of 6 p.m. Monday.

Flights were canceled ahead of the storm at both of Chicago's airports, including 270 flights at Midway and 770 flights at O'Hare. According to the FAA, average arrival delays at one point Monday night topped two hours at O'Hare.

Amanda Gray was among the many stranded at O'Hare. "

With the weather they canceled my flight. Said they had a couple other flights later on in the evening that I had a chance to catch, but those were also canceled," said Gray.

City works to clear main routes

The Department of Streets and Sanitation said Monday its full snow plow fleet of 287 snow plows and salt spreaders were working to clear main routes and Lake Shore Drive. Mayor Rahm Emanuel thanked city plow drivers for their hard work on Monday.

As the snow began to fall, Streets and Sanitation plows began to move. As always, the trucks hit the main streets first, and when all goes as planned, the trucks move on to side streets as soon as they can. When it comes to snow removal, Chicagoans have high expectations.

Chicago residents have learned to expect their streets to be clean ever since the blizzard of 1979. That is when politics dictated snow removal after Michael Bilandic lost a mayoral election over it. No mayor will lighten up on the issue, even if it means going millions of dollars over budget and leaving streets full of pot holes.

"I can see it being tough on the budget but a lot of people can't make it to work," said Williams.

Other cities must function too, but their snow removal is not as aggressive as Chicago. Minneapolis plows side streets, but doesn't salt them. Pittsburgh uses thier full fleet of snow plows when it snows over 10 inches, and St. Louis never plowed side streets until this year. With 3,000 miles worth of city side streets to plow, some have suggested that Chicago could scale back to save money.

Salt supplies dwindling in many communities

In Homewood, the department of public works is stretching their diminishing salt with sand as the pile runs low.

"We're still able to hit the main sections. We're hitting all our hills, curves, under our viaducts. Wherever it's going to be a precarious situation we'll get that salted," Chris Dewall, Homewood Department of Public Works, said.

In Naperville, city employees are waiting on a salt delivery.

"We've used 18,000 tons of salt this year so that is a very large amount but we're feeling good that we're able to last through the rest of this winter with the salt supplies we have on hand," Linda LaCloche, City of Napervile, said. "We're actually getting some deliveries, they're supposed to come today as well."

Temperatures are expected to rise above zero across Illinois by the week's end. That means melting snow and the potential for another hazard - flooding.

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