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Workers brave the elements, get creative to report for work

Dan Abbate makes two oversized snow mounds as he clears entrance his storefront N. Milwaukee Ave. Bucktown Wednesday Feb. 2

Dan Abbate makes two oversized snow mounds as he clears the entrance to his storefront on N. Milwaukee Ave. in Bucktown, Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011, in Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 18, 2011 4:49AM

While most businesses and major corporate offices were closed Wednesday, determined Chicagoans who needed to feed hungry customers, trade in the markets, care for the sick or tend to animals found a way to make it to work.

One climbed out the window of his home because he couldn’t get out the front door. Another drove down a closed highway. Others didn’t need a dramatic effort.

In the Chicago financial markets, most people either stayed overnight in a downtown hotel or had access to Metra service. The Chicago exchanges had information technology workers ready to make certain their systems functioned. But even with those precautions, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade had a rare delay in the start of “open outcry” markets, which didn’t begin until 10 a.m .

Hungry workers

At Pastoral Artisan Cheese, 2945 N. Broadway, manager Greg Ellis crawled through the window at his garden apartment in Uptown to get to work.

“There was a snow drift almost as tall as I was,’’ said Ellis.

All locations of Harry Caray’s remained open. One employee made it to the Harry Caray’s site in Rosemont by driving down Route 53, which was closed, as a helicopter followed her to record the event for TV, CEO Grant DePorter said. At the River North restaurant, only two employees out of 30 for the Wednesday morning shift didn’t make it, DePorter said.

Keeping hospitals going

At Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey, a car pool of four-wheel drive vehicles and trucks driven by the hospital’s management team braved the storm to pick up staff and bring them to the hospital and to Ingalls’ urgent aid centers in the south suburbs. Among the drivers was the hospital’s chief executive officer, Kurt Johnson.

Through Wednesday afternoon, roughly 112 staff had been picked up since the car pooling began Tuesday afternoon, and hospital personnel also took one patient home, said Kathy Mikos, vice president for patient services. Many of the staff also spent the night at the hospital Tuesday night, among them all of the hospital’s leadership team, she said.

The University of Chicago Medical Center hospital’s emergency room and in-patient units remained open, said spokesman John Easton.

“I think we had 271 cots and gurneys and beds set aside for staff who wanted to stay over. I understand we filled them all,” he said.

Keeping the lights on

At ComEd, company managers expected the storm would bring power outages, and made preparations to ensure that repair crews and others would make it in to work. Key staff were put up in hotels near where they’d be needed Wednesday, said spokeswoman Tabrina Davis.

Caring for the animals

Though Brookfield Zoo closed Wednesday for only the second time in its 77-year history, about a dozen employees camped out in sleeping bags so they could feed the animals and clear paths for visitors to return today.

Chicago is the nation’s capital of stuff on the move, and in that world Wednesday was an “oh well, forget it” kind of day.

Trucking firms said they kept their rigs parked and were just thankful to get their drivers safely back home.

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