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City struggling to dig out

A parking meter AshlAvenue south Irving Park Road is surrounded by snow. An OEMC spokesman said thalthough there is temporary

A parking meter on Ashland Avenue south of Irving Park Road is surrounded by snow. An OEMC spokesman said that although there is a temporary suspension of parking meter enforcement, motorists are expected to pay and park legally. The enforcement suspension will remain in effect until further notice on Friday, February 4, 2011. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

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Updated: March 6, 2011 12:20AM

The sky was sparkling, and the city’s busiest streets were mostly clear of snow Friday — three long, grueling days after Chicago’s historic blizzard.

But things were still far from normal.

Lots of side streets and most alleys remained snow-choked, drawing complaints from inner-city residents that their neighborhoods were being shortchanged for more affluent areas.

And even though the 400,000-student Chicago Public Schools re-opened Friday, scores of kids remained home. The 24,000 students who normally ride yellow buses had to find their own way to school. As a result, attendance plummeted at some schools.

At Burnside Scholastic Magnet, where about two-thirds of kids are usually bused, only 209 of 760 students showed up. Streets were so treacherous around Burnside, at 650 E. 91st Place, even some parents who usually drive their kids to school kept them home.

“My child didn’t come to school today because the streets are bad around the school,” said Darian Crumb, parent of a Burnside pre-schooler.

On the bright side, the storm seems to have kept most of the city’s crooks at home, too.

In Chicago’s first shooting since the snow started falling Tuesday afternoon, Andre Barker, 47, was wounded in the leg during a robbery early Friday in Englewood. The thieves stole his snowblower and $27 and fled in a white sedan. Typically, half a dozen or more people are shot in the city over three days, officials said.

Airlines were back to normal at O’Hare and Midway airports. And CTA resumed regular service for buses and trains.

There was other good news: the city announced motorists won’t have to feed parking meters until the city gives 24 hours notice. And for those residents putting out lawn furniture to claim their dug-out parking spots, don’t worry — the city isn’t going to crack down on such “dibs,” either.

In interviews across Chicago, residents gave city officials mixed reviews for their handling of “snowmeggedon,” President Obama’s favorite name for Chicago’s worst snowstorm since January 1999.

“I don’t have any complaints with the city,” said Mitchell Lara of Albany Park. “You can’t sit around and wait for the city to do everything. Grab a shovel.”

West Coast transplant Corey Reagan also gave the city a thumbs up.

“In Seattle, four inches of snow shuts down the entire city. It’s automatic, they don’t even think about it,” said Reagan, who lives in Roscoe Village. “Chicago had 20 inches and within 48 hours the city was up and running again.”

But as the saying goes, all politics is local.

“It’s not like the city’s not out there doing stuff — they’re just not doing it here,” said Sarah Lopez as she dug out her car near Irving Park and Damen on Friday afternoon.

The Rev. Larry Mitchell Sr. said his West Side neighborhood streets weren’t nearly as clear of snow as some of the side streets he saw on the North Side and along the lakefront.

“Overall, I’m not disappointed, but they could have done a better job in some of the inner-city areas,” said Mitchell, pastor of Lord of Host Missionary Baptist Church at 3439 W. Chicago. “It seems like they pick and choose which communities they go to first.”

Wilson Rosario, an unemployed mechanic who lives in West Andersonville, added: “The city was terrible. With all the money this city takes in from parking tickets and everything, you think they’d be out here quicker.”

The storm, which dumped 20.2 inches of snow on O’Hare and produced gusts of up to 70 mph, stranded about 900 vehicles on Lake Shore Drive on Tuesday night. Those vehicles were towed to lots — where 137 remained Friday morning.

The storm left 190,000 people without power in northern Illinois. ComEd crews replaced more than four miles of electrical cable during the blizzard.

Chicago Public Schools interim CEO Terry Mazany said students who missed school Friday will receive excused absences with a note from a parent or guardian. Patrick O’Connell, principal of Sheridan Magnet, where more than a third of kids are bused, said streets outside his school at 533 W. 27th seemed passable. But one out of five kids stayed home.

One of the two missed Chicago Public Schools snow days — the first in 12 years — will be made up next Friday, which was originally scheduled as a teacher-only attendance day.

Temperatures are predicted to rise Saturday and Sunday, with a chance of snow flurries on both days. Still, the mercury is not expected to top 32 degrees Sunday, so it’s unlikely the city will see a large snow melt, National Weather Service meteorologist Mark Ratzer said. Temperatures are expected to dive Monday, he said.

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