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"Historic" Blizzard Buries Chicago Area In More Than 19 Inches Of Snow

Updated 02/02/15 - 10:47 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) -- After nearly 36 straight hours of snowfall, the Chicago area was digging out from more than 19 inches of snow across the region, making it the 5th largest snowstorm in the city's history, and the snow was still falling early Monday.

As of 6 a.m., a total of 19.3 inches had fallen at O'Hare International Airport since the snowstorm began around 7:30 p.m. Saturday. At Midway International Airport, 19.2 inches had fallen as of 6 a.m. Monday.

In other parts of the Chicago area, 18 inches had fallen in Lincolnwood, 17 inches had fallen in Somonauk, 13.5 inches had fallen in Schererville, 15.2 inches had fallen in Portage, 17 inches had fallen in Libertyville, and 14 inches had fallen in Naperville.

"This is a historic snowfall," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Sunday night. "In a 24-hour period, it's going to be one of the top three in the history of the city of Chicago."

The national weather service said, with the 19.3 inches of snow measured at O'Hare, the snowstorm was already the 5th largest in Chicago history, and snow was still falling in the city when the latest measurement was taken at O'Hare. While the blizzard itself had left the Chicago area and shifted to the East Coast by early Monday morning, lake effect snow falling for several hours Monday morning in northeastern Illinois and northwestern Indiana. By about 7:40 a.m., the lake effect snow had shifted mostly to northwest Indiana.

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The heavy snow prompted the Chicago Public Schools and most other school districts in the area to cancel classes on Monday, as roads were treacherous, and in the city, plows had yet to clear most side streets by the time students would have gone to school.

The city's plows spent more than 36 hours focusing on main streets and Lake Shore Drive after the storm started. City officials said snow removal vehicles began clearing side streets around 8:30 a.m. Monday.

The full fleet of 500 pieces of snow removal equipment included 350 plows and salt spreaders, and 150 pieces of heavy equipment that will be used to remove snow piles, and keep snow cleared from areas near hospitals, firehouses, police stations, and schools.

The blizzard also was grounding thousands of flights at the city's two airports.

On Sunday, airlines canceled more than 1,300 flights at O'Hare, and more than 300 flights at Midway, according to the city's Aviation Department. As of 10:30 a.m. Monday, airlines had canceled more than 850 additional flights at O'Hare, and more than 135 others at Midway.

Snow also obscured many lane markings on roads and expressways. Some three- or four-lane expressways and roads were down to only one or two lanes in some spots. With plows expected to be on the roads for much of the day, drivers were advised to keep at least one lane of traffic between them and any snow-fighting vehicles.


In the south suburbs, on Interstate near the junction with Interstate 57, a jackknifed semi-tractor trailer had spun around 180 degrees in the westbound lanes.

For many other drivers, just digging their vehicles out from around 18 inches of snow was proving extremely difficult, if not impossible.

"I'm just going to dig where I can walk, and dig it out, and hopefully drive out with no problems," said Bridgeport resident Bernie White. "But I've got to get my wife's car out, too."

The city of Chicago has deployed than 500 snow-fighting vehicles across the city, including more than 150 pieces of heavy equipment to haul away snow that has been cleared off the streets. Trucks also have been spreading 75,000 to 100,000 tons of salt.


Metra, the CTA, and Pace all were experiencing delays due to the snow. CTA express buses that normally operate on Lake Shore Drive were being diverted to other streets.

Cook County Sheriff's Department Deputy Chief Marlon Parks said the south suburbs were dealing with a lot of drifting and blowing snow Monday morning.

"I would advise people who are trying to make it to work today to slow down. The roads are pretty treacherous at this time with the blowing and drifting snow. It's pretty much hard for people to keep control of their vehicles, and we're dealing with a lot of spinouts and minor crashes," he said.

Police departments across the Chicago area said police were responding to multiple traffic crashes, though no major accidents have been reported.

The storm knocked out power to more than 50,000 ComEd customers, but as of 10:30 a.m. Monday, only 2,600 were still without power. ComEd expected to fully restore service by 3 p.m.

NIPSCO reported 2,500 outages at about 10 p.m. Sunday night, but power had been restored to all but 450 customers by 10:30 a.m. Monday.

Brookfield Zoo, which closed for only the fifth time in its history on Sunday, planned to reopen at 10 a.m. Monday.

The Museum of Science and Industry, which closed early Sunday due to the snow, was reopening Monday, and offering free admission for children ages 3 to 11. Vouchers will be good all month for two children's tickets with the purchase of one paying adult.

The Shedd Aquarium was opening late, at 10 a.m., due to the weather.

The Field Museum of Natural History also closed early Sunday due to the weather, but was reopening Monday at 9 a.m. The museum already was offering free basic admission to all Illinois residents throughout the month of February.

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