Winter Weather Cancels More Than 1,600 Chicago Flights
Updated 12/12/10 8 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – The winter storm pounding the Chicago area Sunday has forced the cancellation of more than 1,600 flights and blew the roof off a Navy Pier venue.
The snow is expected to continue through the night, then give way to bitter cold temperatures and strong winds.
Major delays and cancellations are being reported at both Chicago airports.
As of 4:45 p.m., airlines at O’Hare International Airport have canceled approximately 1,375 flights and are reporting delays of 45 minutes or more, according to a release from the Chicago Department of Aviation.
Jordan Ledoux got trapped at O’Hare while trying to get back to Portland from a Houston visit. He said it was possible he might not make it home until Tuesday.
“This is the worst flying experience I’ve ever had,” he told CBS 2.
At Midway Airport, airlines have canceled more than 300 flights and are experiencing delays up to two hours due to the winter weather.
Chicago Department of Aviation spokeswoman Karen Pride says airlines have requested that about 200 cots be set up at the airport for anyone who might want to catch a little shut eye. The cots are set up in an area past security, so passengers can get some privacy.
Airlines have also asked for passenger amenity kits containing toothpaste and toothbrushes.
Travelers are advised to check airline web sites for flight status before going to the airports.
The Department of Aviation has its entire staff and all snow-removing equipment working to ensure the runways, taxiways and terminal roadways are secure.
On Chicago streets, the city’s Department of Streets & Sanitation deployed 174 snow-fighting trucks late Saturday to plow and salt the city’s main roads and Lake Shore Drive.
“Terrible” weather conditions have caused about a dozen spin-outs and minor crashes on far southwest suburban roadways, Illinois State Police Master Sgt. Bill Fuentes said. Crews have shut down Interstate 55 outbound at Reed Road near Coal City because of poor visibility, but no major injuries have been reported, he said.
Motorists in Kankakee, Iroquois and Ford Counties are facing zero visibility and “treacherous” travel conditions in many areas, State Police said. Interstate 57 has come to a complete stop in those areas, and people are urged to avoid traveling if possible.
State Police said roads are slick in Chicago and in the west and northwest suburbs, but knew of no major problems or crashes as of about 6 p.m.
Along the lakefront, winds whipped up an unusual snowstorm, sending waves crashing near running paths typically a dry distance from the water near Oak Street Beach.
Still, unbearable temperatures and mounting snow couldn’t freeze out hundreds of tailgating Chicago Bear fans at Soldier Field a few miles to the south.
“It’s freakin’ cold, ” said Natasha Boilek of Highland, Ind. She was wearing a face mask with ice forming near her eyes and mouth.
A winter weather advisory remained in effect until midnight Monday for Cook, DuPage, Lake and Will counties, according to the National Weather Service’s website. The advisory is for snow and blowing snow that will limit visibility.
Additionally, a lakeshore flood warning is in effect until 6 a.m. Monday along Lake Michigan, the weather service said. Wind gusts of more than 50 miles per hour will blow down the length of the lake and produce waves up to 25 feet.
The snow is expected to diminish by late-afternoon in the western suburbs, but continue through the night in Chicago. Strong winds will cause blowing and drifting snow throughout the evening, the weather service said. In northwest Indiana, lake effect snow is expected to continue through the night.
The winds are expected to gradually diminish early Monday, but falling temperatures will result in wind chill values as low as minus-25 degrees through Monday morning, the weather service said.
Temperatures are only expected to reach nine degrees Monday, and will drop as low as three degrees Monday night, the weather service said. A slight warm-up is expected Tuesday, and temperatures will rebound into the 20s Wednesday and Thursday.
The Sun-Times Media Wire and the Associated Press contributed to this report.