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City turns to side streets as life gets back to normal after snowstorm

Firefighters from Engine Company 35 clear snow from around fire hydrant corner North Ave. Western Ave. Thursday Feb. 3 2011

Firefighters from Engine Company 35 clear snow from around a fire hydrant at the corner of North Ave. and Western Ave. Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011, in Chicago. | John J. Kim~ Sun-Times

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Heaped snow everywhere and bitter, face-numbing cold greeted commuters Thursday morning, as well as delays on the CTA Blue Line and Metra trains and icy, treacherous highways.

But Lake Shore Drive is open again. And a sure sign that things were returning to normal — a few folks venturing out onto city streets in three-inch high heels.

“Despite the historic storm, I believe we have made great progress thus far,’’ Mayor Daley said at a press conference late Thursday morning.

But he called the situation on Lake Shore Drive Tuesday night — when hundreds of motorists got stuck for as many as 12 hours — “a crisis’’ and said he believes city crews did a “tremendous job’’ in making sure no one got hurt.

“The safety of people came first, and they responded very well,’’ he said.

Asked if people will blame him for the city’s handling of the situation, he shrugged and said, “Sure they can blame me. That’s life.’’

Daley and other officials asked residents to have patience as crews continue to dig out.

“We have been working non-stop since the storm hit, and we will continue to work until we have our public way as clear as necessary,’’ said Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Tom Byrne. “ ... We ask the public’s continued patience in regards to this storm.’’

With the city’s arterial streets in decent shape, city crews have now turned their attention to side streets, officials said. Byrne said a total of 200 pieces of heavy equipment were now in the neighborhoods.

“We will get the job done, but it will take some time,’’ Byrne said.

After being forced to close five train lines Wednesday because of the storm, Metra had all lines running Thursday morning, although some trains were running an hour late due to mechanical and switching problems, a Metra official said.

And the CTA’s Yellow and Pink lines, portions of which were shut down for the blizzard, are now back running. CTA and Metra officials said some lines saw rush-hour size crowds Thursday morning for the first time since shortly after the storm hit.

“A lot of the trains are seeing heavy boarding,” said Metra spokeswoman Judy Pardonnet. “Some of the trains are seeing heavier than normal boarding.”

Riders should expect some delays tonight, Pardonnet said.

“We are doing our best to restore the entire schedule,” she said. “We are asking for the continued patience of our riders as we get back to a full schedule.”

Illinois highways remained icy in places this morning, but — in District Chicago, at least — all of the abandoned vehicles had been towed by this morning, said State Trooper Clare Pfotenhauer.

“The only issue we had this morning was that some of the roadways were icy, but salt trucks are currently out there,” Pfotenhauer said at about 10:15 this morning.

Two runways were open at O’Hare as of Wednesday evening, and more were opened Thursday morning. Officials said a total of six of the airports seven runways should be open later in the day. United Airlines will be back to a full schedule by 4 p.m., city aviation officials said.

Midway was also getting back to normal. Southwest is operating at a full schedule, the officials said.



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