10 inches of snow and climbing in parts of Chicago area as winter storm warning remains in effect until evening
Some areas downstate could get more than a foot from the first wave of the storm. The National Weather Service said a second wave on Thursday may not be as severe as first forecast, with snowfall the heaviest south of Interstate 55.
A winter storm warning remained in effect Wednesday, with over 10 inches reported in parts of the Chicago area by the afternoon and more snow expected by the evening.
The main thrust of the snow had shifted in the afternoon south of Interstate 55. Over 9.5 inches were recorded at Midway Airport, 10.5 inches in Oak Lawn and 9.8 inches in Homewood, according to the National Weather Service.
Totals were lower on the North Side but still substantial. The Lake View neighborhood reported 8.2 inches by noon and O’Hare Airport reported 5.6 inches.
Some of the lowest totals were in the northwest suburbs: Morton Grove and Schaumburg both with 3.6 inches.
“We can have winter systems that produce a sharp difference in a small area.” National Weather Service meteorologist Matt Friedlein said. “(This one) just so happen to bisect the Chicago metro” area.
The system tapered off about 6 p.m. but the area will not stay dry for long. Light lake effect snow is forecasted to begin about 9 p.m. and stay until early Thursday afternoon, Frieldlein said.
“It will be off and on, as the nature is with lake effect.. but because of freezing temperatures it will accumulate,” he said, with an additional 1 to 4 inches likely by Thursday afternoon.
During the Wednesday morning rush, snow had been falling an inch an hour, leading the weather service to warn on social media: “This is the worst part of this storm.”
Pankanom Phumruang could vouch for that, though perhaps her point of reference is skewed.
Phumruang, 25, moved here from Thailand five months ago to work as an au pair. Wednesday morning, she was struggling to push a stroller on Sheffield Avenue on her way to the CTA Red Line, her passenger, a young girl, bundled up in a pink snowsuit.
“We have hot weather all year” in Thailand, Phumruang said, so the snow was quite a shock. “It’s very bad. … I like everything in Chicago, except for the weather!”
At Clark and Sheffield, Hector Martinez was hard at work, clearing the sidewalk with a snowblower.
“It’s normal for Chicago,” Martinez said. “I don’t mind.”
The morning rush was down to a crawl in many areas. Metra was reporting few delays, but CTA Green Line trains were not running between Garfield and Cottage Grove because of signal problems.
More than 670 flights were canceled at O’Hare and around 90 at Midway Airport, according to the Chicago Department of Aviatio
Many commuters stopped by the Dunkin’ Donuts next to the Addison stop on the CTA Red Line, where Brianna Jelas, 26, was on duty.
She started her shift at 4:30 a.m. — when both the snow, and customers, were less plentiful. She doesn’t mind the snow, but wasn’t looking forward to leaving the warm coffee shop when her shift ended.
“It wasn’t bad when I got here,” Jelas said. Business was slow, but picked up around 8, she added.
“But I gotta drive home in half an hour. … I’ll just see how it goes. Usually I’ll be sliding all over the place,” Jelas said. “It ain’t bad, as long as it doesn’t go up to my leg when I step in it. … Last winter was way worse. It was snowing all of February.”
Dozens of schools in the Chicago area were either closed Wednesday or offering remote lessons. You can check the list here. Chicago Public Schools remained open.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a disaster declaration on Tuesday for the entire state, and a winter storm warning remained in effect for much of the state until 6 p.m. Wednesday.
In the Chicago area, the warning covers southern and central Cook County, most of Will County, all of DuPage, Kendall, Grundy and LaSalle counties and, in Indiana, Lake and Porter counties.
Some parts of central Illinois could get as much as 15 inches as the storm moves across Peoria, Bloomington and Kankakee and into Indiana, the weather service said.
In declaring a disaster, Pritzker deployed 1,800 trucks to plow and treat roads throughout the state, and activated 130 Illinois National Guard members to help any motorists who might end up stranded in the whiteout conditions.
The massive snow system, dubbed “Winter Storm Landon” by forecasters, also prompted state legislators to cancel much of the legislative session this week. Pritzker had to change plans for his “State of the State” budget address, moving it to the Old State Capitol building in Springfield.
The snow is expected to be followed by frigid conditions, with temperatures predicted to drop into single digits.
About two dozen warming centers across Cook County will be open for people who lack adequate heating. A full list of opened warming centers can be found at CookCountyEmergencyManagement.org or Chicago.gov.
And despite the snow, plenty of people were still at work, on their way or, in the case of Donnie Slattery, just getting off work — and looking for a place to park.
Slattery, 35, was in front of his Logan Square apartment Wednesday morning, trying to fit his 2014 Smart Fortwo into the spot he’d shoveled out.
He rocked it back and forth, hoping to get the tiny hatchback over a small mound of snow.
“I feel like everyone looks at me like some kind of idiot driving this car around in the snow, but this is really the best car I’ve ever had,” Slattery said. “Like if it gets stuck you can just push it out.”
The Smart is rear-drive, so it’s it’s not great in the snow. But on the other hand, it’s just under 9 feet long and weighs less than a ton — less than half the weight of, say, a Jeep Wrangler.
A few setbacks later, Slattery finally had it parallel-parked in a space just big enough for his car — and few others.
Generally, Slattery said, he despises Chicago’s “dibs” tradition but has decided to claim his shoveled spot this year with an orange crate.
“I never had a problem with the stupid dibs until last year with all the snow we got because everybody did it,” Slattery said. “But someone stole my dibs last year and I ended up having to park blocks away. … I’m hoping that since this parking is so small, my dibs won’t get stolen this year again.”
The snow didn’t hurt business at Panes Bread Cafe, 3002 N. Sheffield Ave. Quite the opposite.
“I always find that when there’s snow, we do get busier, because people are working from home or shoveling and come in for a break,” said Karen Murillo, 62, who owns the cafe with her husband.
“The snow doesn’t bother me, except for crazy people driving,” she added. “But I said, all right, I better go out and shovel,” she said.
Her husband and then her took turns shoveling, warming her coat in the dryer in-between shifts.
“It’s not so bad because it’s not so cold,” she said. “And it’s a good workout.”
Cara O’Keefe, 38, who works at a pharmacy, was headed there Wednesday morning, waiting for a Brown Line train at Belmont.
“It’s just Chicago,” she said. “I’ve lived here for 12 years. It’s not too bad today. … You just gotta prepare.”
Contributing: Manny Ramos, Josephine Stratman