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Late Winter Storm Makes This 3rd Snowiest Winter Ever For Chicago

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Updated 03/12/14 – 8:45 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – This winter moved up another notch on the list of snowiest winters in Chicago overnight, when more than 3 inches fell at O’Hare International Airport, making the total snowfall this winter the third most on record.

Still, the storm wasn’t quite as bad as forecasts predicted, falling short of the 8 inches possible in forecast models. A winter storm warning from the National Weather Service was cut two hours short Wednesday, ending at 11 a.m., rather than 1 p.m. as originally planned.

The snowstorm was moving out of the Chicago area by 7 a.m., but not before dumping 3.6 inches at O’Hare, and 6.0 inches at Midway International Airport. Some suburbs got up to 6.5 inches.

The storm officially placed this winter as third snowiest on record for Chicago, with 79.1 inches at O’Hare, surpassing the 77 inches recorded in the winter of 1969-70.

For reference, 79.1 inches is just over 6’7″, or an inch taller than Michael Jordan, who is 6’6″. It’s still a few inches shy of the second snowiest winter in Chicago, when 82.3 inches fell in 1977-78. The record is 89.7 inches of snow in 1978-79.

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Some towns and villages already were running short on road salt before the storm hit, so have cut back on applying salt. Some suburbs won’t salt side streets.

The heavy, wet snow, when combined with wind gusts of up to 35 mph, was snapping some power lines. ComEd said tens of thousands of homes and businesses were left without power. As of 8:45 p.m., 3,000 ComEd customers were without power.

In Northwest Indiana, nearly 37,000 NIPSCO customers lost power at the height of the storm, with the hardest hit areas in Lake, Porter, and LaPorte counties. That number had been reduced to about 5,00 outages by 4 p.m.

Dozens of school districts have either cancelled classes for Wednesday, or were opening late due to the storm – in some cases, because of power outages affecting the schools.

The snow also was causing delays on local highways, thanks to snowy, slushy roads.

The Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation deployed its full fleet of more than 280 snow plows and salt spreaders, and 26 smaller four-wheel-drive plows to the main streets and Lake Shore Drive around 12:45 a.m. By 11:15 a.m., the city had redeployed all of those plows to side streets, after clearing the main streets.

The Illinois Department of Transportation and Illinois Tollway also have deployed their full fleets to clear Illinois highways and toll roads.

Several Metra trains on multiple lines have been delayed or canceled due to the weather. The agency was advising commuters to expect delays Wednesday morning, and to allow extra travel time to get to their destinations.

The CTA was not reporting any significant delays on its train lines, but many buses were running slower than normal, due to the snow.

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