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Shoveling. A lot. Again. Chicagoans vent — or go with the snow

“If I just leave it, think anyone will notice?” joked an Irving Park man who’s car got stuck in the snow Tuesday morning.

Fernando Melquiades shovels snow Tuesday at his home in Irving Park.
Fernando Melquiades shovels snow Tuesday at his home in Irving Park.
Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

Shoveling can get emotional.

“This is such bull----. I’m going back to Kentucky,” said Shannon Walker, 44, who lives in the Irving Park neighborhood and hasn’t counted the Bluegrass state home for decades.

Walker unhappily shoveled her front steps Tuesday.

“I’m supposed to be at work in an hour,” Walker, who works for a moving company, said before setting down her shovel for a moment to wave her hands as if to clear the air. “It’s fine. Everything’s fine,” she said.

A short distance away, social worker Jordan Strueber, 37, attempted to dislodge his car, which had become stuck in the mouth of an alley.

“If I just leave it, think anyone will notice?” he joked. “Maybe it will go away.”

A foot and a half

That’s not likely to happen anytime soon, after many Chicagoans woke up Tuesday with as much as a foot and a half of snow on their sidewalks and driveways.

Midway Airport recorded 17.7 inches of snow since Monday while less than half of that fell at O’Hare Airport, which got 7.5 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

The highest Chicago-area total was 18.6 inches of snow by 7 a.m. in the West Ridge neighborhood. A close second was 18.2 inches of snow in west suburban Oak Park. Next was Evanston, with 18 inches, according to the weather service.

The area could see another round of snowfall this week, according to the weather service, which predicted a 20% to 30% chance of snow from Wednesday through Thursday night.

The seasonal snowfall in Chicago is now well above normal. About 44.2 inches of snow have fallen at O’Hare this season, which is 18 inches higher than the average for this time of year, according to Weather Service meteorologist Jake Petr.

And though the accumulation has caused headaches for many, this season hasn’t even cracked the top 10 of Chicago’s snowiest winters, according to the NWS.

The winter of 1978 to 1979 still holds the title of the snowiest Chicago winter on record, when 89.7 inches — nearly 7 12 feet — of snow blanketed the city. The season prior, from 1977 to 1978, claims second place, with a total of 82.3 inches of snow. The winter of 1960 to 1961 dropped 82 inches of snow throughout the season.

And though the 18 inches of snow is a formidable total for a single storm, Chicago saw more snow accumulation in single snowstorms in 1967, 1979, 1999 and 2011, according to the weather service. Each of those blizzards left at least 20 inches of snow.

Garbage pickup to restart this weekend

Hours after the storm moved away from the area, the city’s fleet of snowplow drivers finally started clearing residential streets Tuesday evening.

With temperatures keeping below the freezing point for at least a few more days, keeping the snow from melting, officials said crews had to start move the snow piles from the streets to help ease weather-related congestion.

“This is not the kind of snow that’s just going to melt, so we’ve designated some areas so that we can start relocating that with some heavy equipment,” John Tully, the commissioner of the Department of Streets and Sanitation, said during a news conference.

While many of the city’s alleys are still coated in a sheet of ice left over from another snowstorm in late January, Tully said trash pickup should resume by Saturday.

Given the frigid temperatures that have gripped the area in recent days, the city’s Department of Family and Support Services has converted two of its community service centers into 24-hour-a-day warming centers that will be open until Friday. Those centers are located at 10 S. Kedzie and 4314 S. Cottage Grove.

The snowfall also had serious consequences for 7,000 homeowners across the state who lost power, prompting Gov. J.B. Pritzker to issue a disaster proclamation for all 102 counties.

“I have directed my administration to use all resources at our disposal to keep our communities safe amid dangerous and ongoing winter weather,” Pritzker said, urging people to avoid unnecessary travel and keep an eye on neighbors who might need help.

What are you going to do?

Meanwhile, residents had a variety of attitudes about the sheer volume of snow on Chicago’s streets — and how to cope with it in the middle of a pandemic.

“There’s a lot of it, at least it’s fluffy,” said Ben Harshman, 55, a novelist out shoveling.

Fernando Melquiades, 31, a Chicago Public Schools physical education teacher from Irving Park, told his students Tuesday that class, which was being conducted virtually, would consist of shoveling and asked them to point their cameras out the window so he could confirm their participation.

“It was a joke,” he said, noting the kids were in eighth grade and got a kick out of it.

“This snow is just Mother Nature telling us to get out and have fun and work out a little bit instead of being cooped up inside.”

CPS announced Tuesday evening that in-person classes would resume Wednesday for preschool and special education students after they had been called off Tuesday.

Susan Kim, 45, a paralegal who shuttled her lap dog, Sona, over large patches of unshoveled sidewalk on Tuesday, shrugged at the situation.

“It’s winter. We live in Chicago. What are you going to do?” she said.

That’s an easy question for Strueber.

He planned to smoke “a lot of weed, honestly,” he said.