First day of spring nears, but Chicago struggles to shake winter

March 19, 2014 (CHICAGO)

Business is iced out until this fleet of Wendella tour boats can make it to the Cal-Sag Channel and eventually the Chicago River.

"This is the first time in nearly 80 years that we have had to postpone the start of our season because of ice," said Michael Borgstrom, president, Wendella Boats.

Generally, Wendella Boats are in business by St. Patrick's Day. The ice forced company workers to launch an idea Wednesday. It's called "the drone" -- a small, unmanned barge outfitted with bubblers to break the ice underwater, and a fire hose out front. It's breaking through 20 feet an hour and no workers are in danger.

"One thing is for sure, nobody is going to be in harm's way, and we can observe the progress that it makes with the onboard cameras, kind of like the Mars Rover," said Mike McElroy, director of marine operations, Wendella Boats.

At US Cellular Field, the permafrost is 30 inches thick, so crews are heating the field piece by piece. Opening Day is March 31.

"I'm really comfortable that we're not only going to be able to open on Opening Day but have the workout the day before," said Roger Bossard, White Sox groundskeeper.

Because of the weather, Cook County's ten golf courses expect to open April 1, a month behind schedule. Chicago Park District courses face the same challenge. Local bike stores, like Kozy's, are bracing for an onslaught of customers once the weather heats up.

"We anticipate being busy. We anticipate people who want to come out and want to buy a bike now, not yesterday," said Luis Iniguez, Kozy's cyclery.

Winter's upside: potential beauty, since the snow has worked as a warm blanket for underground bugs.

"Those insects may have a very good year, a lot of butterflies fit into that category," said Doug Taron, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Nature's beauty, as the ice slowly thaws, and the sun's glow warms us up.

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