clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

That snow on the ground isn’t going anywhere anytime soon

Chicago Public Schools announced that Tuesday’s in-person classes were canceled due to travel concerns stemming from “the significant snowfall on the ground and anticipated inclement weather.”

Jennifer Vazquez tries to clear snow off of her car Tuesday morning in Portage Park.
Jennifer Vazquez tries to clear snow off of her car Tuesday morning in Portage Park.
Stefano Esposito/Sun-Times

Craving a glimpse of a patch of green?

You’re not alone.

It’s been more than 20 years since Chicago’s had this many days in a row with 10 or more inches of snow on the ground, according to the National Weather Service.

As of Monday, the city hit its 16th straight day with major snow cover — the longest since a 30-day period that ended in mid-January 2001.

The 16-day span is in a fifth-place tie with January of 1885, Weather Service meteorologist Matt Friedlein said Monday.

But the city will no doubt break that tie by Tuesday morning, Friedlein said, thanks to a one-two punch: winds blowing south down the length of Lake Michigan, creating strong lake-effect precipitation, coupled with the same weather system that’s been clobbering Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Mississippi with snow.

Snow totals across the Chicago area stopped climbing by Tuesday morning.

At 6 a.m., Midway International Airport tallied 17.7 inches of fresh snow. The only area with a higher total was Evanston, which recorded 18 inches of snow. And while O’Hare International Airport reported just 7.5 inches, the snow stymied air travel. By Monday evening, O’Hare canceled 236 flights and Midway had nixed 155 more, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation.

Elsewhere, the weather service reported that northwest suburban Harwood Heights logged 12.3 inches of snow by Monday evening. Southwest suburban Oak Lawn had 14.5 inches.

Micah Kronlokken 34, who doesn’t take public transit amid fears of the coronavirus pandemic, walks about 2 miles to his job in Rogers Park as heavy snow falls across Chicago, Monday morning, Feb. 15, 2021.
Micah Kronlokken 34, who doesn’t take public transit amid fears of the coronavirus pandemic, walks about two miles to his job in Rogers Park as heavy snow falls across Chicago on Monday morning.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

At a news conference with leaders of various city agencies, Mayor Lori Lightfoot called the frigid temperatures and expected snow dump “an all-hands-on-deck moment.”

“We are ready to make sure that our city continues to function, even in this extreme weather circumstance,” Lightfoot told reporters Monday.

The Department of Streets and Sanitation has deployed 300 vehicles to plow and salt the city’s 9,400 miles of road. Given that city workers were initially focused on covering the city’s main roadways, Lightfoot urged Chicagoans to “be patient” as they make their way onto residential streets.

In-person classes canceled

On Monday evening, Chicago Public Schools announced Tuesday’s in-person classes for pre-kindergarten and special education cluster students were canceled due to travel concerns stemming from “the significant snowfall on the ground and anticipated inclement weather.”

Those students will continue remote learning — along with all other CPS students — according to the school district, which said meal distribution programs will continue Tuesday. However, the district noted that some distribution sites “may be impacted if staff have transportation challenges in the morning.”

Chicagoans were advised to check on family members and neighbors and trickle water from faucets to keep pipes from freezing. Officials also urged residents to avoid stepping onto snow-covered rooftops or using a stove or oven for heat.

Those who must travel should drive slowly, keep a full tank of gas and carry a flashlight, blanket, snacks and water, said Rich Guidice, executive director of the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Control.

In light of the freezing temperatures and expected deluge of snow, officials said they were focused on protecting the city’s homeless residents. That includes outreach efforts to offer shelter and warm clothing to those living in encampments.

Two warming centers, at the Garfield and Dr. Martin Luther King community service centers, will remain open overnight, Lightfoot said. Four other community service centers, the Chicago Cultural Center and select library and park district locations also serve as warming centers during daytime hours, and police districts remain open to the public any time.

City officials also noted a heat ordinance requires landlords to set the temperature of buildings at 68 degrees during daytime hours and 66 degrees at night. Landlords that violate the ordinance can face a fine of up to $1,000 for each offense.

Matthew Beaudet, commissioner of the city’s Department of Buildings, said officials have conducted over 1,500 related inspections this winter, over 500 of which have taken place since Friday.

“The city of Chicago’s top priority is public safety,” Guidice said. “We encourage residents to check on and provide any additional assistance to neighbors, family members, pets and our most vulnerable, especially those who are elderly, have disabilities and [who] are homeless.”

To request a well-being check on an individual, seek a heat-related inspection, be matched and transported to a shelter or request other city services, call 311 or visit the related website.

Will we pass stretch in 1966-67?

Chicago may unseat the bleak winter of 1966-1967 for its fourth-longest stretch with 10-plus inches of snow on the ground. That was when the “Big Snow” poured down 23 inches in one storm, resulting in 20 consecutive days of heavy snow cover.

“We’re just going to add to the snow depth and remain below freezing for the work week,” Friedlein said. “We may get above freezing during the weekend, but even then, there’s a chance for snow. We could keep snow cover at 10-plus inches even if we melt or compact some — we’ve got snow cover to spare.”

Still, Chicago is way behind the record. That would be the ferocious winter of 1978-1979, when the city had 48 days in a row with 10-plus inches of snow on the ground.

Brian O’Donnell, owner of Armitage Hardware, 925 W. Armitage Ave. in Lincoln Park, said snow shovels and sleds have been selling really well.
Brian O’Donnell, owner of Armitage Hardware, 925 W. Armitage Ave. in Lincoln Park, said it’s not just shovels and salt selling fast these days; sleds are a top seller during this year’s snows.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

By Tuesday, as the second heavy snowfall of the season tapers off, the Chicago area will be closing in on nearly 50 inches of snow this winter, Friedlein said.

Winter, so far, well short of Top 5 for total snowfall

That’s well short of the top five winters, in terms of snowfall:

• The all-time heavyweight season of 1978-1979, with a grand total of 89.7 inches;

• 1977-1978, with 82.3 inches;

• 2013-2014, at 82 inches;

• 1969-1970 with 77 inches, and

• 1966-1967 with 68.4 inches.

“It’s getting old really fast,” said Brian O’Donnell, owner of Armitage Hardware, 925 W. Armitage. At his and other hardware stores around the region, salt, shovels and snowblowers were selling fast, with one more hot item: sleds.

Chalk it up to the pandemic, O’Donnell said: “Oh my gosh yeah, the moms are looking for something to do outside to get the kids out.”

Nari Berthusen, 9, and Eito Tabion, 8, sled down Cricket Hill near Montrose Beach on the North Side after several inches of snow fell overnight across Chicago, Monday afternoon, Feb. 15, 2021.
Nari Berthusen, 9, and Eito Tabion, 8, sled down Cricket Hill near Montrose Beach on the North Side Monday afternoon.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Nine-year-old Nari Berthusen was sledding for the first time Monday at Cricket Hill near Montrose Harbor with her parents Andy and Chie. Even though it was cold and windy, “it’s also fun,” she said.

Anthony Tabion and his wife Kaori accompanied their sons Eita, 10, and Eito, 8, as the Avondale family sledded at Cricket Hill.

“No complaints. I’m not at work, I’m enjoying some time with my family, and it’s beautiful outside,” he said. “You can’t ask for anything more.”

Contributing: Ashlee Rezin Garcia, David Struett

Nari Berthusen, 9, (from left) and her friends Eito, 8, and Eita Tabion, 10, sled down Cricket Hill near Montrose Beach on the North Side after several inches of snow fell overnight across Chicago, Monday afternoon, Feb. 15, 2021.
Nari Berthusen, 9, (from left) and her friends Eito, 8, and Eita Tabion, 10, sled down Cricket Hill near Montrose Beach on Monday. Several inches of snow fell overnight across Chicago, with more coming through Tuesday morning.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times