Weather Updates

Chicago area prepares for brutal cold

Frank Galone digs out after second big snow storm South West Side Chicago Sunday February 6 2011.  | John

Frank Galone digs out after second big snow storm on South West Side of Chicago, Sunday, February 6, 2011. | John H White~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 21, 2012 10:03AM

As Chicago area residents cringed under an additional 2 to 4 inches of snow on Sunday and the promise of brutally cold temperatures this week, city cleanup crews continued to plow side streets and remove new snow, and federal officials vowed to work to strengthen protections that keep lake water from flooding Lake Shore Drive.

About 175 snow-fighting trucks rolled out at 5:30 a.m. Sunday on main roads in response to a heavier-than-expected snowfall. The trucks and 319 heavy-equipment vehicles then traveled to side streets to clear “trouble spots” and areas that would hinder garbage trucks in alleys, said Matt Smith, spokesman for the city’s Department of Streets and Sanitation.

Though patches of snow remained on many side streets, all were passable Sunday night, and regular garbage collection will resume today, Smith said.

The fresh snow sent residents back out into the street, shovels in hand.

David Schechterman had put off shoveling around his Saturn parked on the street in the 4400 block of North Heritage until Sunday afternoon, just as the snowfall started.

“I’m trying to get the first two feet off, basically as a precaution,” he said.

Fellow Buena Park resident Tom Sanderson, who usually takes the CTA’s Red Line to work, said his neighborhood “was pretty messed up until today . . . I have a small car and I could barely get through it.”

He and his neighbors in the 4200 block of North Kenmore paid a snowplower to clear the alley Thursday.

“Some people had to get to work Friday. There was no way they could make it,” he said.

Franco Campione, who lives on the same block, could not move his car until all neighbors had shoveled spots in the alley. That meant he couldn’t drive his sons to school.

“So, I had to stay home,” he said.

Last week’s storm caught more than a thousand cars on Lake Shore Drive, and drivers had to abandon their vehicles. By Sunday, 16 cars remained unclaimed at 400 E. Lower Wacker Drive, Smith said.

Despite the crisis on Lake Shore Drive, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk said the situation could have been much worse if water had swamped the roadway. They held an outdoor news conference to urge federal and city officials to find a way to fill in at least five gaps along the shoreline where future storms could wreak havoc.

“Lake Michigan is lower than it has been in more than 20 years,” Durbin said. “The waves of last week’s blizzard could have been much worse, more damaging and could have encroached on Lake Shore Drive.”

“These are areas that have not come up with new, concrete shoreline,” Durbin said. “When the water comes up, it splashes beyond the bike path, getting perilously close to Lake Shore Drive.”

The five “gap” areas along the drive are near 71st Street, 67th Street, 41st Street, the Fullerton Avenue exit, and between 1500 North and Oak Street. They need increased green space, despite $300 million in federal funds spent in the past 10 years to rebuild the shoreline, Durbin said.

Kirk said: “We dodged a bullet” because of the low lake water level.

Durbin and Kirk are asking officials with the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to meet with Chicago and the city park district to see what can be done to strengthen the gaps.

Neither Kirk nor Durbin would criticize Chicago’s response to the blizzard.

“They did the best they could under the circumstances,” Durbin said.

Meanwhile, motorists will be ticketed for failing to feed parking meters starting at 9 a.m. today in an area bounded by Oak Street on the north, Roosevelt Road on the south, Lake Shore Drive on the east and Halsted Street on the west. For the rest of the city, tickets will be issued for violations starting at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

The National Weather Service predicted a 40 percent chance of snow Sunday night and early today and warned that temperatures would plummet from 25 degrees to 3 degrees.

The bitter cold was expected to remain in the area through Thursday, with highs expected to reach 12 degrees and lows as cold as 7 below zero.

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