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UPDATED 02/24/12 11:17 a.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — A sloppy, slushy mix gave way to rapid, heavy snow across the Chicago area Friday morning, leaving roads treacherously slick and making for a miserable morning commute.
Rain alternated with snow in the overnight hours in much of the Chicago area as a bone-chilling wind slammed early-morning commuters in the face. But by 5 a.m., the snow was beginning to fall at a steady clip downtown.
Later in the morning, the snowflakes grew larger and the wind picked up, making visibility dangerously poor. By 8:45 a.m., the snow had lightened, but was still coming down at a steady clip downtown.
By 10:45 a.m., the precipitation had been reduced to a light snow shower.
Earlier in the morning, the storm prompted a ground stop at Midway International Airport, and widespread flight delays and cancellations.
The snowstorm also cut power to 9,000 ComEd power customers. The outages were concentrated largely in the northern suburbs, where 6,100 customers were without power as of 10:45 a.m. The other outages were spread out across the Chicago area. The outages decreased to about 900 by early evening Friday.
Outages were reported in particular at Palatine, Lake Zurich, Deer Park and Barrington, due to heavy snow on the wires.
The storm also made for a miserable time at Chicago’s airports, even before the snow began to fall.
Chicago Department of Aviation spokeswoman Karen Pride reported as of 10:30 a.m. Friday, airlines had canceled more than 200 flights at O’Hare International Airport and delays averaged about 45 minutes.
Delays of 45 minutes were also reported at Midway International Airport, where 200 flights were canceled.
CBS 2 Meteorologist Megan Glaros reports a winter weather advisory remains in effect through noon for the entire Chicago area. But light snow showers will continue for some time after that.
And CBS 2’s Mary Kay Kleist explains unlike the typical snowstorm that might appear in January or early February – which crashes down from Canada with arctic air – this snowstorm blew in from the Pacific Northwest, bringing a great deal more moisture and making the snow heavy and wet.
Only a few inches of snow have fallen within the city of Chicago, and the southern suburbs got only a dusting.
But some north suburban areas were clobbered. Grandwood Park, just west of Gurnee, got 10 inches. Far north suburban Wadsworth got 8.5 inches, Woodstock got 8.3 inches, and Barrington got 7.4 inches.
CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez reports in Grayslake, the plows were out in force. But homeowner Larry Jante said the cleanup Friday was nothing compared with the blizzard that dumped 21.2 inches of snow last year.
“Last year, the snow was high, it would have been over the front of your car, like during the blizzard,” Jante said. “It was pretty nice.”
The thick, wet snow stuck to road signs and weighed down trees, taking some branches to the ground. Com Ed crews were dispatched to help clear branches that were threatening power lines.
CBS 2’s Kris Habermehl spent the morning driving through Barrington, where the roads were clear, but several inches of snow had piled up on the parkways. The heavy snow also brought down some branches on overloaded trees.
As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, the city’s Northwest Side didn’t get nearly as much snow as the north and northwest suburbs. But still, shoveling and clearing the wet, heavy snow was a challenge.
Fred Tarnow was shoveling up and down his sidewalk for an hour.
“Wet and heavy,” Tarnow said. “Break your back.”
On the pavement on side streets, snow melted into puddles of gloppy slush.
Nelson Toro found a coating of ice on top of the snow that covered his car Friday morning.
“Even last night with the roads, it would get really slick because it would jell over; freeze over,” he said.
By and large, people didn’t react to the snow with cheer and excitement. But the neighborhood kids in Jefferson Park did. One little girl was spotted catching snowflakes on her tongue.
“It’s white, it’s cool, it’s slushy and fun to play in,” she said.
And back in the city, crews on the ground were trying their hardest to manage the snow.
Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Thomas Byrne said all 284 snow trucks were out on the roads as of the 6 a.m. hour. The snow was more severe in northern areas of the city than southern areas, and department staff are watching cameras and redirecting the plow trucks as best they can, Byrne said.
Chicago residents can keep up with the progress of the snow plows via Snow Tracker, Byrne said.
On the Dan Ryan Expressway, the storm turned deadly — even before snow began to predominate rather than rain. Two people were killed in a six-vehicle crash near 47th Street around 11:15 p.m.
Numerous other accidents were reported across the Chicago area. A car went into a ditch on the Edens Expressway near Touhy Avenue, and an accident also blocked the inbound Dan Ryan at 79th Street during the 6 a.m. hour.
A car also slammed into a snow plow at LaSalle Boulevard and Grand Avenue, CBS 2’s Derrick Young reports.