Massive Blizzard Wallops Chicagoland

Roads, Airports Shut Down; Delays On Mass Transit


UPDATED 02/02/11 11:53 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — The Blizzard of 2011 will go down in history as the third biggest snowstorm Chicago has ever seen. Although the snow is over, a deep freeze was on the way overnight, bringing wind chills as low as 20 to 30 degrees below zero.

City officials said Wednesday afternoon that the snowstorm dumped 20.2 inches of snow at O’Hare International Airport, the third largest snow total ever recorded in Chicago.

Although the snow has ended for most of the Chicago area, some areas — especially northwest Indiana — will still see lake effect snow. And Jose Santiago, executive director of Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications, said temperatures were expected to drop to as low as 3 degrees overnight, with windchills of 20 to 30 degrees below zero.

There’s also the monumental task of digging out huge amounts of snow.

Around 9:30 a.m., a new band of lake effect snow struck downtown, renewing the whiteout conditions. By just before 11 a.m., the snow was finally moving out, except in Northwest Indiana where it will continue well into the afternoon.

Even in Chicago, “This lake effect snow has the potential to reach 3 to 6 inches over the next four hours,” mayor’s chief of staff Raymond Orozco said.

As of 10 a.m., the official total for Chicago was 20.2 inches of snow. That figure falls short of the blizzards of 1967 (23 inches) and 1999 (21.6 inches). It tops the infamous blizzard of 1979, which topped out at 18.8 inches, although the 1979 snowstorm fell on top of 7 to 10 inches of accumulated snow from an earlier blizzard.

But the snow was not done falling, and the totals will likely climb higher.

Elk Grove Village topped the official totals with 22 inches. Midway International Airport had 18.5 inches, Oak Brook had 18.2 inches, and 17.6 in Downers Grove.

The early morning mess and danger follows a night of thundersnow, with 66 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes reported.

Driving virtually anywhere in the Chicago area was nearly impossible. Lake Shore Drive was closed, and some people ended up being stranded for up to 12 hours before they were rescued.

As of mid-morning, Lake Shore Drive remained closed, as city crews worked to removed abandoned cars.

As of 3:30 p.m., Interstates 57 and 80 both had one lane open in each direction in the area where those highways intersect. Parts of both of those interstates had been shut down earlier in the day

The Edens Expressway had one lane open in both directions, but snow was making it difficult to see lane markings. The Dan Ryan Expressway had one lane open in the local lanes and two lanes open in the express lanes. The Kennedy Expressway had one lane of traffic open in both directoins. Illinois State Route 53 was open with one lane of travel in both directions. The Eisenhower Expressway was clear Wednesday afternoon, although many entrance andn exit ramps were still impassable.

The Bishop Ford Freeway had been cleared as of 3:30 p.m. and plows were still working on its ramps. On the Stevenson Expressway, two lanes of traffic were open in both directions.

In Lake County, Ill., a civil emergency was declared, and all roads were closed. In McHenry County, all roads were nearly impassable, and in Grundy County and points west, I-80 was closed between mile markers 112 and 58. In Kane and Will counties, a travel ban is in effect until further notice.

There was no service at all Wednesday morning on the Heritage Corridor, North Central Service, Metra Electric Blue Island, Southwest Service, and Union Pacific McHenry Sub lines. All others were running on Sunday schedules on Wednesday, with delays of 30 to 45 minutes for most trains.

Metra was planning a modified weekday schedule for all of its rail lines on Thursday.

South Shore trains from Northwest Indiana were running, but about a half dozen morning trains were canceled. South Shore officials reported trouble clearing the parking lot at East Chicago–one of the largest stations on the line.

CTA buses were moving, but slowly, and ‘L’ trains were operating, but with delays. Blue, Brown, Orange, Green and Red Lines were running normally. On the Pink Line no trains were running between 54th/Cermak and Pulaski as of 2 p.m. Yellow Line temporarily suspended on Wednesday and it was not known when it would resume.

CTA Buses are not running on Lake Shore Drive, which remained closed Wednesday afternoon.

For the Pace suburban bus service, About 55 bus routes were operating Wednesday, out of a total of 200 routes due to road conditions. Pace officials planned to suspend all service as of 6 p.m., but they said doing so will likely not affect riders, given the light passenger loads on Wednesday.

Pace is expected to restore normal service Thursday morning, dependent on road conditions.

At the airports, virtually all flights were canceled. As of 3:35 p.m., more than 2,200 flights had been canceled at O’Hare International Airport and only a few flights had arrived at O’Hare.

Midway International Airport had only a few flights scheduled to arrive and depart Wednesday afternoon, with more than 400 canceled flights on Wednesday.

Chicago Aviation Department officials said both airports hoped to get back on schedule on Thursday, but travelers were advised to check with their airlines for flight information.

As of 4 p.m., a total of 29,800 ComEd customers were without power. Of those customers, 23,000 were in the city of Chicago, the rest in the suburbs. At times, as many as 95,000 ComEd customers were without power, but as of 4 p.m, power had been restored to 165,100 customers who had lost electricity during the storm.

In many neighborhoods of Chicago, the scene was surreal early Wednesday morning. CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker was only about 25 feet from her camera along Cornell Avenue between 47th and 48th streets, but was nearly invisible. Her camera crew had planned to meet her at a nearby hotel, but ended up snowed in on the street.

In Naperville, the snow was dying down by 4:30 a.m., but was drifting nearly 6 feet high. Cars were lined up and stuck, and were not going anywhere.

Naperville city officials say it could take up to two days to get all the roads clear.

The snow was tapering off in areas far western areas such as DeKalb, but the end of the blizzard will be a long and tedious process.

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  • juni jung

    i could see from my window, more than 7 snow movers rolling down the lake shore drive near monroe st. since early this morning. almost cleared up. but, now it snows heavly down again.
    i feel sorry for the crews who worked so hard all night and all morning.

  • Jim

    That picture above looks dirty. :p

  • brigette

    this is terrible…..i hate tha snow nd its up to my waist….i have never seen anything like this

  • Jeff

    don’t understand what the big deal is , everyone who stayed home from work should be ashamed, i made it in , sure it took me a little longer but I made it.
    This is Chicago get use to it..

    • Susanna Isherwood Bullis

      Not very smart on your part. Most of the state is in a state of emergency. Why would you risk your life and others by being on the road. You should be ashamed most everyone else had the day off with pay..Not smart!

    • Rose

      Jeff, I think your blowing snow up your own butt. You are probably home curled up in a fetal position, sucking your thumb, and wishing for more snow as long as your unemployment checks reach you. You do not sound smart enough to have a job. Work involves the ability to make choices dthat promote a positive outcome. So all you folks from Chicago who stayed home, smart thinking. Jeff, give yourself a wedgie, you deserve it.

    • SpellingIzHawrd

      Why would you get used to something that happens once in a lifetime? You’re not ‘Chicago tough’ you live on a road that was plowed and have awd. Congrats, now the rest of us will enjoy our snow day, with pay. You should be ashamed for being such a dope.

    • Chicago Hot Dog

      You’re right Jeff, they should be ashamed. Get off your butts and get to work, quit milking your union jobs for another freeloading day.

  • Dan

    Jeff, which McDonalds do you work at?

    • mike

      Now that’s funny

  • Lorenza


    I am sure the city crews could have used 100k+ people on the streets to make the clean up worse. Have some common sense!

  • tylerjake

    BIG DEAL!! Baltimore received 30 inches last year in February and two days later, another 18 inches! Aren’t you all used to harsh winters? 20″ is really not that much. I’m sure your Unions that control all of Illinois will have you all up and running again in no time!!

  • David Moran

    If you’re interested in checking out live video from the blizzard, you can check out Thanks!

  • Adam

    Ia Portillo’s still open?

  • Will

    What a lovely event, snow is the BEST especially when college gets canceled…PACKERS FANS check out

  • E Tex Bear fan

    I’m a former native of Hammond and remember the 69 blizzard. Didn’t have school for 2 weeks! My friends and I made a killing shoveling homes, drives and cars out of the drifts. Had to exit my own home thru a basement window since the front and back doors were buried behind a drift that went over and down the house! Those were a PITA to remove.

  • Wrigley Gus

    Here’s a cute little site that assigns grades to the performance of Chicago’s forecasters in predicting the blizzard:

  • peggy

    You want us to send in the pictures, but where are the pictures that were already sent in?

  • Anonymous

    I lived in Chicago for over 20 years…

    We’ve all been warned about the storm from over the weekend…

    It’s simple… The problem was not about the RESPONSE of the City… It’s all about PREPARATIONS & READINESS…. LSD wouldn’t had come to that situation if the trucks were out there spreading salt as early as 9:00 in the morning…. They were stingy with the salt trucks….

    Most Chicago motorists are very careful with regards to driving in snow…. but without salt on the road you’ll end up with spin-offs and accidents….

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  • PackFanatic

    It was a baad one, half of the roads over here in Jefferson Park are not even plowed at all, the job the plows have been doing to keep up has been horrible! PACKERS FANS CHECK OUT >>>

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