Battling the big snow storm in Chicago, Tuesday, February 1, 2011. | John H White~Sun-Times
Updated: May 21, 2012 1:46PM
It started for most with a mad dash home from work Tuesday afternoon as the worst snowstorm in 12 years was bearing down on the Chicago region.
Rush hour started a few hours early.
But for some, the trip home didn’t start early enough — and wouldn’t end until many hours later. Vehicles everywhere from Hampshire to Hobart couldn’t outpace the snowfall. Drivers were stranded until rescue crews — traveling in pickups, four-wheelers, snowplows, Humvees, armored vehicles, snowmobiles, you name it — could reach them.
Others didn’t even go home. Police officers, firefighters, jail guards, hospital workers and others stayed on the job, catching quick naps on office couches, floors, car seats or empty beds. Out on the roads, snowplow drivers put in double and triple shifts.
Everyone has a story about how they spent the night of the Blizzard of 2011.
We know kids liked snow, but . . .
Sherman Hospital in Elgin reported twice as many births as normal during the storm, and they were just a few of the scores of babies around the region who will be reminded for the rest of their lives for what they put their mommies and daddies through to bring them into the world. Babies including Caelen Levelle Blackmon, of Calumet City, whose mom rode to the hospital in an ambulance that got stuck in snow twice; Aaron Robert Gamblin Jr., of Crown Point, who got a snowplow escort, and Lucy Elizabeth Whitney, of Oak Lawn, whose daddy and Oak Lawn firefighters furiously shoveled the driveway so her mom could make a mad dash for Christ Hospital.
Unless you’re having a baby . . .
Officials in Will, Lake, Kane, Kendall and DuPage counties declared states of emergency, ordering motorists to stay off the roads. Many didn’t listen and got stuck in the snow. Hundreds of vehicles ended up in ditches, on shoulders or abandoned in the middle of the street, where many remained for a day or two.
Too much to bear
Heavy snow was too much for roofs on a golf dome in Frankfort, an abandoned roller rink in Round Lake, a Kmart in Naperville, a social service agency in Crown Point, Ind., and a steel mill in Griffith, Ind.
Loss of life shows storm’s danger
Men in Downers Grove, Lyons, Glendale Heights, Carol Stream and South Haven, Ind., were among those whose deaths were reported to be storm-related — all from apparent heart attacks caused by the exertion of shoveling snow. Cardiac arrest also was blamed in the death of a 48-year-old Grayslake man found in a stranded vehicle Wednesday.
Two people died when their car was struck by a semi-trailer truck in Northwest Indiana in an accident police said was weather-related, and the body of a LaSalle County man who left his stranded car to try to walk the final mile home was found in the snow several hundred feet from the car near Downstate Kernan.
A 14-year employee of the Kane County Highway Department died while refilling his truck with salt after finishing a shift plowing county roads. And a Mundelein woman missing since the start of the blizzard was found dead in her vehicle Wednesday outside the Lake Zurich church where she worked.
Rail crossing danger
Trains struck vehicles that got stuck while trying to cross snowy tracks in Hinsdale, Elmhurst and Shorewood. In Vernon Hills, two police officers helped a man escape from his snowbound truck just seconds before a train struck it late Wednesday. No one was reported injured in those incidents.
Good work, if you can get it
As many hunkered down at home, Jorge Donatlan and his crew were prowling the streets of Geneva, shovels in hand, clearing off sidewalks and driveways for clients of Marengo-based Tovar Snow Professionals. For most of the morning, Donatlan and his crew were the only people out. And if anyone did show his face, Donatlan asked if he was looking for work. “I’ve got forms in the car, I’m hiring people on the spot —$13.75 an hour,” he said.
No time for ‘Angry Birds,’ folks
As Elgin City Manager Sean Stegall toured the town, iPhone in hand, he sent updates to residents via Facebook and Twitter:
@ElginIL: City Manager Stegall here: There are currently 40 motorists in the ditch at the intersection 47 and 72. Snowmobiles in route. Unreal. (Posted about 11 p.m. Tuesday)
@ElginIL: City Manager Stegall here: We are pulling some snow plows off the road now. It is simply too dangerous. They cannot see due to white out conditions. (Posted at midnight Wednesday.)
People gotta eat, right?
Commercial districts everywhere looked like ghost towns Wednesday. Merchants either heeded the advice to stay at home or simply couldn’t make it to work to open shop. The brave few who did were often rewarded, especially restaurant workers, who found themselves packed with people looking for nourishment after hours of shoveling.
“All who came in here said we were the only place open this morning. We’ve been very busy from 7 a.m. until now,” Ebonie Williams, manager of Cosi in downtown Oak Park, said Wednesday afternoon. Still she couldn’t maintain the pace and was closing up at 5 p.m. “Employees can’t get in here because of the weather,” she said.
A little snow — or a lot — can’t stop good samaritans
An 80-year-old cancer patient awoke to find his driveway cleared, thanks to a longtime neighbor. Crews of people took turns digging each other out of cul-de-sacs and side streets everywhere, rather than wait any longer for snowplows to reach their streets.
A Tinley Park man finally got to put his tractor to good use. Al Siegers spent Wednesday plowing out driveways for all of his neighbors. One neighbor has an invalid daughter, another just got out of the hospital, and there are a lot of seniors on the block who needed help, said his wife, Donna. Then Siegers pushed the snow into a huge pile so the neighborhood kids could build a fort.
“Everyone knows my husband, and they know he does good deeds,” Donna Siegers said. She did her own good deed and brought lunch to him, but he still wouldn’t let her use the tractor. “He likes it, but he won’t share it with his wife,” she said with a laugh. “It’s a guy thing.”