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First Snow Of The Year Grounds 325 Flights At O’Hare

Chicago snow storm

Kids in Chicago didn’t waste any time breaking out the sleds after the first snowfall of the season on Dec. 4, 2010. (Credit: CBS)

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UPDATED 12/4/10 – 5:54 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – With Chicago getting hit by its first snowfall of the season, more than 325 flights have been canceled at O’Hare International Airport and both O’Hare and Midway International Airport were seeing delays averaging 20 to 30 minutes.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Bob Roberts reports

Airlines at O’Hare were experiencing delays averaging 20, with more than 325 canceled flights as of 3:30 p.m., according to the Chicago Department of Aviation. Virtually all of those canceled flights happened early in the day.

Traveler Howard Baker was among the hundreds of passengers who had to find another flight as a result.

“We were ready to get there and party. We’re having a party for Christmas and we’re already late. It starts at 6 and we may not make it in time,” Baker told CBS 2’s Kristyn Hartman.

The problems weren’t as bad at Midway, where airlines were reporting a few delays averaging 30 minutes, with no cancellations.

Travelers should check their airline’s website before leaving for the airport and should arrive at least two hours before their flight is scheduled to depart, officials said.

As of 3 p.m., 3.4 inches of snow had fallen at O’Hare. In the far west and southwestern suburbs, some areas had seen 6 inches of snow or more.

A winter weather advisory for the area was into effect until midnight, with snowfall expected to taper off to flurries by the afternoon.

The National Weather Service predicted a total of 3 to 5 inches of snow in the Chicago area by the afternoon, with heavier totals south and west of the area. An additional 1 to 3 inches of lake effect snow is possible near Lake Michigan through Saturday evening.

The snow might have caused some headaches for travelers, but it also made for a pretty picture.

Norwood Park resident Steve Krwowski said “I love it. Everything looks so clean.”

Residents were out early shoveling sidewalks and homeowners weren’t the only ones clearing away the snow and ice.

Chicago Department of Transportation worker Ollie Pouncey worked on a crew salting sidewalks and roadways along overpasses and bridges that ice up faster.

He said his job is probably one of the most important ones on a day like this, “because everybody do have someplace to go.”

In Chicago, the city dispatched 175 snow fighting trucks to the city’s main streets and Lake Shore Drive at about midnight Saturday. Fresh drivers were brought in at 1 p.m. Saturday and by 1:30 p.m., the trucks were shifted to side streets.

“Because it is going to get cold for the next several days it is important to shovel out this snow before the freeze hits,” said Chicago Streets & Sanitation Commissioner Thomas Byrne. “We are cautioning residents who do shovel to pace themselves and to take breaks when necessary.”

More snow around 4 p.m. forced some trucks to be shifted back to main streets. City officials were planning to continue monitoring weather conditions and to deploy trucks and other crews as needed.