Chicago Blizzard May Be One For Record Books

UPDATED 01/31/11 6:38 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – If you remember the infamous blizzard of 1999, beware – we may be in for a snowstorm just as bad–and one that has the potential to be one of the biggest in Chicago history.

The National Weather Service on Monday issued a Blizzard Warning that will take effect on Tuesday afternoon, and is calling the storm “life threatening,” Newsradio 780’s Steve Miller reports.

“We’re saying it’s going to be life-threatening for people who have to be out and traveling during this,” said Samuel Shea, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “If a vehicle were to slide off a road and get stuck in a ditch somewhere, who knows how long it would take to get a tow truck out there or get a plow driver out there.”

TIPS: How To Stay Safe In The Storm

A blizzard warning will be in effect for the entire Chicago area, starting at 2 p.m Tuesday and continuing through 3 p.m. Wednesday.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Steve Miller Reports

Snow will begin after noon Monday, amounting to about 1 to 4 inches. But during the day on Tuesday, a low-pressure system will develop over Texas, as a high-pressure system hovers over northern Minnesota, placing Chicago in the cross-hairs.

HISTORY: A Look Back At Chicago’s Worst Storms

As Tuesday evening approaches, the snow will fall at a rate of 2 to 3 inches per hour or more, as Gulf moisture fuels the system. Northeast winds will gust to about 45 mph, bringing whiteout conditions and blowing and drifting snow.

CBS 2’s Mary Kay Kleist says the storm is still tracking to begin dumping its heaviest snow between 5 p.m. Tuesday and 5 p.m. Wednesday. The worst snow and wind is expected between 2 and 5 a.m. Wednesday.

But just how much snow will fall? Glaros says we don’t know for sure yet.

The only estimate right now is that the snowfall will amount to more than a foot, although some models say 18 inches or more. National Weather Service meteorologist Richard Castro told the Sun-Times Media Wire that 16 to 22 inches could fall in the Chicago area.

But whatever the case, this may be telling – some National Weather Service meteorologists say they are bringing cots and a change of clothes to work.

Mayor Richard M. Daley said the city is doing everything it can to make sure the fight against the snowstorm goes as smoothly and safely as possible. The key, Daley says, is communication.

“We always have snow. I mean, it doesn’t matter, you know, we know the snow is coming, and we had another meeting Saturday of different departments; now they’re meeting at 11 o’clock – not only the City of Chicago, but the Park District, the CTA, Metra, Amtrak, the City Colleges, the Board of Education; we have all our agencies as well,” Daley said.

Daley also says the city is getting the private sector and hospitals on board.

Transportation agencies are also preparing for the storm in advance, and they say it could be life-threatening.

Illinois Department of Transportation spokesman Guy Tridgell says the agency is prepared and “will be even more prepared in a few hours.”

Chicago Department of Aviation spokeswoman Karen Pride says the department is monitoring the weather and will bring in additional staff and snow removal equipment as it’s needed to the city’s airports.

As always, the aviation department is ready with cots should the airlines request them for any stranded passengers.

Several airlines – United, Southwest and U.S. Airways among them, have travel waiver policies listed on their Web sites. Travelers can change their plans over the next couple days without penalty, if they are to fly in or out of Chicago.

Some businesses are trying to ease the misery as the blizzard approaches.

The Hyatt Regency Chicago hotel, at 151 E. Wacker Dr. downtown, has lowered parking rates for Chicago commuters from Monday through Wednesday. A storm rate of $79 including overnight parking is available through Wednesday, the hotel said.

The hotel is also offering “survival” toiletries such as razors, shaving cream and toothbrushes, as well as dining options and amenities to ensure that “guests won’t have to step outside until the next day.”

blizzard2 Chicago Blizzard May Be One For Record Books

A view of Greenview Avenue in Rogers Park after the 1967 blizzard. (Credit: Chicago Sun-Times)

Meanwhile in Springfield, House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) has canceled the state House session for the week due to the blizzard. The session will resume next week.

The state Senate has also canceled its session for the week.

The last time Chicago had a snowstorm of the magnitude now forecast was in January of 1999, a blizzard which has gone down in notoriety.

The Blizzard of 1999 dumped 21.6 inches of snow on the Chicago area. In the aftermath, schools were closed for two days.

However, the grand-daddy of them all was the blizzard of 1967. That storm, which hit hardest during rush hour, literally shut down the city, leaving thousands of cars, buses and people stranded in its wake. This week’s storm also may hit hardest near the Tuesday rush, but folks now have the advantage of advance warning. In 1967, the nearly two feet of snow that fell caught nearly everybody by surprise.

Here are the 10 worst snowstorms in Chicago history, according to the National Weather Service:

1. 23.0 inches Jan 26-27, 1967
2. 21.6 inches Jan 1-3, 1999
3. 19.2 inches Mar 25-26, 1930
4. 18.8 inches Jan 13-14, 1979
5. 16.2 inches Mar 7-8, 1931
6. 15.0 inches Dec 17-20, 1929
7. 14.9 inches Jan 30, 1939
8. 14.9 inches Jan 6-7, 1918
9. 14.3 inches Mar 25-26, 1970
10. 14.0 inches Jan 18-20, 1886

blizzard3 cropped Chicago Blizzard May Be One For Record Books

A police car is stalled at the Michigan Avenue entrance to Lake Shore Drive on Jan. 27, 1967. (Credit: Chicago Sun-Times)

Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this story.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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  • Michelle

    @Dane, there are 7 whole sentences in the story. Journalism is not what it used to be.

    • Veronica Williams

      It’s a snowstorm. How many paragraphs do you need to talk about it? Especially when you can watch the news, get online, or go to the weather channel for a more in-depth scoop? I don’t think you really need to roll up the old journalism sleeves for a storm that isn’t even here yet.

  • Pimp Daddy Q

    Yee, day mush sno would be teh sux.

    • Veronica Williams

      Hahaha. Cute.

  • Sarah

    Were is that freaking fraud Al Gore at

    • SkokieBill

      Perhaps you should look up the difference between CLIMATE and WEATHER. This is a WEATHER forecast. Al Gore was warning about CLIMATE CHANGE, which can (and likely IS) resulting in all sorts of strange weather phenomena around the world.

    • Jack

      Ummm.. this winter’s been a lot warmer than ones previously.

      • Rick Pavia

        Warmer than last year?-Not in Chicago anyway.

  • Dan Rakow

    I’m keeping in touch with CBS 2 Chicago and for more on this monster snowstorm to hit the Chicago Area.

    • lotsoflaughs

      Funny stuff at

  • m a c

    Wow111 Finally someone who knows the difference between CLIMANT and WEATHER111

  • Brad Rathert

    I’m SOOOOOOO ready for Spring! I’m getting tired of the cold and snow. When is the next flight leaving from O’Hare to Miami Beach?

    • Evando Missouri

      it was cancelled

    • John BC

      Good leave no one wants you here anyway

  • Captain Planet

    @Sarah: You clearly haven’t done your homework. Although its origins may be debatable, global warming is no longer a myth. It also causes things like more frequent extreme weather events like mammoth snowstorms that impact a third of the country.

    • Logicman

      Global warming, by definition, warms the earth. The most common metaphor is your car in a parking lot during a warm summer day. That would entail actual warming, not cooling. You can’t claim global warming when there’s colder than normal temperatures.

      You can claim climate shifting, or generic climate change. That’s a more reasonable subject to examine, of which man’s influence is not clear cut: there has been estimate recordings of climate shifting throughout the earth’s history.

      • jjj

        Global temperatures taken as a whole are rising. That is scientifically demonstrated fact. Colder than normal temperatures in some places at some times do not contradict that.

    • NaturalEvolution

      …and excessive dinosaur poop caused the last ice age…get real!

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  • Bill

    Nobody no whit dey takin bout

  • Jamal W

    wassup foos


    BRING IT ONNNNN! ! ! ! !

  • sunnyinAz1

    Ahhhhhh, Sensationalism at it’s best!

  • Mayor Daley

    i just hired my nephew to plow son …along with some other friends, ….move along now business as ususal.

  • Bill

    Amazing how forecasters are pretty consistent in their predictions. There’s a neat little site that tracks what each individual forecaster is predicting… and, I guess, will eventually grade them.

  • Big nasty

    Bring on this super storm i survived 1967

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  • JeanSC

    My additional tip is to buy snowshoes. Mine are ready, and I’m stocked up. I just hope we get at least 2′ of snow, after all the hype and high-tech weather forecasting we’re going through now.

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  • Brad Rathert

    How bad was the Blizzard Of ’79? I was born in January ’79, and i’ve heard it was pretty bad back then.

  • jxjx

    I wonder how many inches megan glaros is expecting tonight!

    • Chicago Hot Dog

      From you, probably a trace

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