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Chicago Learns From The Blizzard Of 1967

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This Jan. 30, 1967 photo shows abandoned autos littering South Lake Shore Drive near 18th Street. (Credit: Chicago Sun-Times)

This Jan. 30, 1967 photo shows abandoned autos littering South Lake Shore Drive near 18th Street. (Credit: Chicago Sun-Times)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Most forecasters are saying this could be the biggest snowstorm to hit Chicago in 44 years.

Fortunately, snow removal is a lot of different than it was during the infamous blizzard of January 1967.

The main difference will be in the technology Chicago uses. At the city’s snow command center at the Office of Emergency Management Communications, dozens of screens show every corner. So, OEMC staff will get a comprehensive view of the 2011 blizzard.

“For instance, we might be focused on the main streets but we could also do a quick view to many side streets,” Matt Smith, spokesman for the Streets and Sanitation Department, said.

It is technology that was inconceivable 44 years ago. CBS 2’s John Drummond was right when he described the 23 inches of snow that buried Chicago 44 years ago as the biggest snowstorm Chicago has ever seen. Those who remember it shudder today

“Paralyzing. It was paralyzing,” Al Schumacher told CBS 2’s Jim Williams.

But back then, there were not 1,000 cameras helping officials more effectively direct snow trucks. Also, snow trucks did not have GPS systems, cell phones and automatic transmissions.

In 1967, cars were stuck on Lake Shore Drive. Today, a screen shows that exact location, and officials will know it when the first car stops.

Public transportation also is expected to run more smoothly.

CTA buses ran out of fuel back in 1967. But today they have bigger gas tanks.

Most of the trains now have enclosed ventilation systems. In 1967, motors became packed with snow and shorted out.

“By running our service frequently, we’ll keep the snow off the actual tracks,” CTA president Rich Rodriguez said.

But a word of caution: Even with all of today’s technology, no one is saying snow removal in a blizzard will be easy.

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