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Tired of waiting on city, neighbors work to clear Bucktown street

On Thursday, John Lawrence could not wait any longer for the city plow that never showed up to clear his street, a stretch of Seeley in Bucktown.

His wife, Rachel Lovell, is nine months pregnant with their first child — it’s a girl they plan to name Olivia — and having occasional labor pains.

“If she would have had to go to the hospital, we never would have made it,” said Lawrence, 27.

So he shoveled out his car — and about 100 feet of the street — to clear an emergency path. It took him about four hours, and would have taken longer if some of his neighbors didn’t lend a hand.

“It became pretty obvious that Webster, and that’s a busy street, wasn’t plowed. Why would they come plow Seeley,” Lawrence said. “I had to get it done. You can’t wait for the city to take care of you.”

Folks all over town digging out from the Blizzard of ’11 had similar stories to tell — and the aching backs and frozen cheeks to show for it.

The day after the third largest snowstorm in Chicago history dumped more than 20 inches on the city, temperatures plummeted to 6 below zero at O’Hare, with wind chills that made it feel like 12 below, according to the National Weather Service.

On unplowed side streets scattered across town — which several aldermen complained should have been cleared faster by snow crews — folks waged personal battles against the deep, heavy snow drifts that held their cars like frozen prisons.

Armed with a plastic shovel, teacher Liz Yarrington, spent two hours digging out her car near Shakespeare and Damen.

“I had to take a break after 15 minutes because I was beaten down,” she said. “But I stayed strong to the end after that. My back and arms hurt more than expected.”

Yarrington felt she deserved the right to mark her spot with broken lawn furniture — a Chicago tradition of calling dibs that’s illegal, yet not enforced — but resisted.

“I didn’t want to be a jerk,” she said. “But I do think you should have dibs if you spend half a day shoveling. It should be legal.”

There will be more digging out the rest of the week. But Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Thomas Byrne couldn’t say how long it will take for the city’s 474 plows to clear side streets, open alleys and resume garbage collection.

Chicago’s major streets, expressways and CTA and Metra expect to be back to normal by today. Even CTA express bus routes will be back on Lake Shore Drive, which was shut down from Tuesday night to Thursday when hundreds of stranded cars stuck in giant snowdrifts were removed. And temperatures are expected to warm — though not much — to a high of about 20 degrees, meteorologists predicted. While shoveling his car out of an unplowed side street Thursday, Chris Acre, 22, summed up his, and the city’s, predicament this way: “It sucks, but it’s got to be done.”

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