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UPDATED 02/02/11 2:28 a.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – The ferocious blizzard pounding the Chicago area dumped more than half a foot of snow in a mere six hours in some places, according to the most recent snow depth totals provided by the National Weather Service.
Lake Shore Drive remains closed early Wednesday in both directions, and the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communication has activated their emergency operations center as the storm continues.
Commonwealth Edison is reporting 79,000 customers are left without power due to the blizzard. The city has been notified of 55 street lights outs, 43 malfunctioning traffic signals and 16 downed wires, the release said.
As of 1 a.m. the city’s is continuing to experience heavy snow, blowing snow, and windy conditions. The wind is expected to be between 25 and 30 miles per hour with gusts as high as 50 mph. The total nighttime snow accumulation is expected to be 10 to 16 inches, according to an OEMC release.
The city has activated the Emergency Operations Center, which is staffed with representatives from all key city departments, and remain open as long as necessary.
Lake Shore Drive still closed
These immobile vehicles are mostly in the northbound lanes around Fullerton Avenue. Some motorists have abandoned cars and boarded several CTA buses that also remain stuck, the release said.
The city has asked that all motorists who are stuck please remain in their cars and not abandon vehicles, as this further hampers the clearing process.
Chicago Fire Department personnel have been moving in the southbound lanes to provide medical assistance to any motorists who are stuck and might require assistance, the release said.
The city is focusing as many resources as possible to remove vehicles that are stuck or have been abandoned. As the road clears and motorists are able to move cars, they are systematically being routed into southbound lanes so they can exit onto Chicago Avenue. But no motorist should take this action without being directed to do so by the police department, the release said.
As LSD remains closed, Streets and Sanitation crews are taking this opportunity to clear vehicles, and plow and salt the road surface. The goal is to reopen the drive, the release said. Motorists who have left vehicles should call 311 to recover their relocated vehicles.
O’Hare International Airport saw 10.6 inches of snow between about 6 p.m. and midnight Wednesday and currently has a foot of snow on the ground as of 12:20 a.m., according to the NWS snow depth report.
That’s a significant increase from earlier, when only 2.8 inches of snow fell at the airport between noon and 6 p.m. Tuesday, according to the report.
Midway International Airport, on the Southwest Side, was reporting 10.2 inches of snow on the ground as of about 10:45 p.m., according to the NWS website.
Southwest suburban Romeoville has 14 inches of snow on the ground as of midnight and saw 7.8 inches of fresh snowfall since 6 p.m., according to the report.
Far northwest Rockford, where the snow depth totaled 16 inches, had 8.7 new inches of snow in the past six hours, according to the report.
Elsewhere in the suburbs, west suburban Glen Ellyn in DuPage County was experiencing 44 mile per hour wind gusts as of about 11 p.m., and two to four foot snow drifts were making streets impassable, according to the NWS.
Batavia, in west suburban Kane County, was reporting gusts of 52 miles per hour, whiteout conditions, and snow depths of 12 inches as of 11 p.m., according to the NWS. Aurora, also in Kane County, struggled to clear three to four foot drifts from a major street at 6:30 p.m., only to see the same street buried in drifting four to six inches of snow by 9:45 p.m.
Libertyville in north suburban Lake County was reporting snow depths of 12 inches as of about 9 p.m. while “thundersnow” struck southwest suburban Tinley Park — already blanketed with a foot of snow — shortly after 10:30 p.m., according to the NWS.
Valparaiso University in Porter County, Ind. had 9 inches of snow and “significant drifting” about the same time, according to the NWS.
Before the storm is finished, more than 20 inches of snow are forecast to fall on a large swath of the Chicago area, encompassing parts of Cook, DuPage and Will counties in Illinois and Lake and Porter counties in Indiana, according to an NWS forecast updated shortly before midnight.
Other areas in northeast Illinois and northwest Indiana could experience between 16 and 18 inches of snow before the storm passes, according to the forecast.