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CPS back in session Tuesday as snow cleanup continues

The first blizzard of the season buried Chicago under more than a foot-and-a-half of snow and prompted a flurry of cancellations Monday — among them classes at Chicago Public Schools.

19.3 inches of snow had fallen in Chicago, making it the city’s fifth largest snowstorm ever, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Gino Izzi.

Motorists can expect a “relatively normal” drive home Monday afternoon as the city continues to dig out from the first blizzard of the season. But more than a foot-and-a-half of snow prompted a flurry of flight cancellations Monday, including more than 1,100 flights at Chicago’s two airports.

In spite of the snow, commuters heading home this evening should see a “relatively normal” commute, Illinois Department of Transportation spokesman Guy Tridgell said. IDOT’s full fleet of trucks are clearing roadways, and traffic volumes are very light, likely because many people chose to stay home, Tridgell said.

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More snow is forecast for Tuesday, but only a little, and not until later in the afternoon. So after a one-day break, Chicago Public Schools will be back in session Tuesday, city officials said at a news conference on Monday.

Also at that news conference, Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Charles Williams said he expects to use 75,000 tons of salt on main and side streets. There’s plenty in reserve, he said, because the city has had to use little up to this point.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel praised the city’s efforts, saying workers were putting in 14- and 16-hour days and that “none of us are gonna rest” until everybody in Chicago can get to work and their streets are clear.

But his mayoral rivals had a different view, with Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) putting out a press release saying the city was ill-prepared and calling the handling of side streets “horrific.”

Another candidate, Willie Wilson, said South Side streets were neglected in favor of downtown, calling it another example of Emanuel helping his rich friends.

The Cook County Jail also dealt with weather issues, as a staffing shortage caused by the blizzard resulted in Sheriff Tom Dart putting the entire facility on lockdown, which means visitation and inmate movement are limited, except for court and medical reasons. Dart on Monday morning issued a news release saying about a third of his staff had failed to report to work in the past 24 hours. From Sunday night through Monday morning, about 110 staffers worked mandatory overtime to help deal with the situation, according to Dart’s office.

As the snow finally stopped falling, the clearing, brightening skies revealed the true mess: Cars caked in snow, thigh-deep drifts and, of course, a maddening commute.

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Chicagoans awoke to the soft whir of tires going nowhere and the raspy growl of snow blowers. Pedestrians and cyclists alike crowded onto the relatively clear strip of pavement at the side of the road, as many sidewalks remained drifted and impassable.

Heather Helm, 36, was among the commuters doing what she had to do to get to work downtown.

“Leave a little early, bundle up,” said Helm, 36, getting set to catch a bus downtown from Lake View. “Be aware of the traffic around you. The cars can be skidding at you. They’re not driving fast — it’s just the roads.”

City workers remove snow from Daley Plaza on Monday. More than 19 inches of snow were recorded, making it the 5th biggest snowfall in Chicago history.  |  Al Podgorski /  Sun-Times Media

City workers remove snow from Daley Plaza on Monday. More than 19 inches of snow were recorded, making it the 5th biggest snowfall in Chicago history. | Al Podgorski / Sun-Times Media

Lillie Sanders, 58, was heading in the same direction. “It’s Chicago,” said the woman, who remembered the far bigger storm of 1967. That storm, officially the worst in Chicago history, dumped about 23 inches on Chicago and its suburbs.

This time, the weather service reported snowfall numbers for suburbs including: 16.5 inches in Aurora by 6:55 p.m.; 14 inches in Schaumburg by 7:30 p.m; and 16 inches in DeKalb by 7:35 p.m.

The lake-effect snow is expected to continue throughout the morning over portions of northeast and northwest Illinois, according to the weather service. There will be additional light accumulations with visibility falling to around one mile at times.

The Kennedy Express lanes were closed after the morning rush so the gates could be cleared of snow and switched to the outbound position — ideally, before the evening rush, said Illinois Department of Transportation spokesman Guy Tridgell. The gates had been in the inbound position since Saturday night and must be cleared manually before switching them to the outbound position, Tridgell said.

After about 36 hours of focusing on main thoroughfares, city crews turned their attention to neighborhood streets Monday morning, thought plows will continue to monitor road conditions on arterial streets throughout the day.

In all, about 500 pieces of snow removal equipment — 350 snow plows and salt spreaders and 150 pieces of heavy equipment — were deployed to clear streets and remove snow piles, paying extra attention to snow around hospitals, police and fire stations, and schools.

A Chicago Police Department SUV blocks a sinkhole near Chicago and Clark on Monday.  |  Al Podgorski /  Sun-Times Media

A Chicago Police Department SUV blocks a sinkhole near Chicago and Clark on Monday. | Al Podgorski / Sun-Times Media

Plenty of folks were opting to stay home Monday, but not Kristy George. The 28-year-old is the boss at her South Side health care center.

“I have to be at work,” the Lake View resident said, as she dug her car out. “I don’t have a choice. I’ve already had three people call out on me.”

George parked on Broadway — a smart move.

“If I’d parked on one of the side streets, there would be absolutely no way to get out,” she said.

And despite those hundreds of city crews out on the roads, it still often fell to Chicagoans to help out their neighbors.

Bob Regan helped push a stranger’s car free of the snow Monday morning in Logan Square as he walked to see if his car was where he had left it Sunday night.

Bob Regan helped push a stranger's car free of the snow Monday morning. |  Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

Bob Regan helped push a stranger’s car free of the snow Monday morning. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

The good karma paid off. His Toyota Camry was still there, near a Blue Line stop, at a metered spot — but with no tickets on the windshield.

It was the spot he had chosen after simply running out of options Sunday night during the heart of the storm.

“I work at a brewery in Evanston and when I got home last night a cop car was stuck on my street here in Logan Square. And it was just impassable anyways so I backed out and drove around awhile and thought ‘Ok, what am I going to do?’”

Luck was with him.

“I’d have thought it was going to get towed,” said Regan, 38.

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With city plows focusing at first on the main roads, Kevin Reynolds, 52, like thousands of other Chicagoans, was singing the side street blues.

He was delivering pizzas Sunday night when his car got stuck on May Street, just south of Grand Avenue. He tried to get his car out of the snow but abandoned it overnight when he realized it was futile.

“I just don’t know what to do, I’m at a total loss. I wish the city would just tow my car. I would pay for it,” he said.

The snowstorm and poor road conditions also prompted DePaul University to cancel classes on Monday, as well as all City Colleges of Chicago. Columbia College Chicago canceled classes starting before 10 a.m. Monday, but all classes starting at 10 a.m. or later will begin as usual.

Though Sunday the CTA diverted buses from Lake Shore Drive, as of early Monday all buses had resumed their normal routing on the drive, according to the transit agency.

Ralph McKinney, the agency’s chief transit safety officer, said the agency planned for regular bus and rail service Monday. However, an alert posted to the agency’s website warned of possible reroutes or delays on trains and buses.

Though Divvy bike stations remained opened during Sunday’s snowstorm, customers were encouraged to ride only if it was “absolutely necessary,” according to Divvy spokesman Elliot Greenberger.

Monday morning wasn't exactly bicycle weather in Chicago. |  Al Podgorski /  Sun-Times Media

Monday morning wasn’t exactly bicycle weather in Chicago. | Al Podgorski / Sun-Times Media

With most schools closed in the city and suburbs, the YMCA of Metro Chicago announced that 11 locations — four in the city, seven in the suburbs will be offering a day-long School Days Out program to help parents in need of childcare. A list and details are at www.ymcachicago.org.

Airlines at O’Hare canceled more than 1,300 flights as of 3:30 p.m. Sunday. More than 300 were canceled at Midway.

On Monday, 785 flights had been canceled as of 7:40 a.m. due to weather conditions, the Department of Aviation said. More than 90 were canceled at Midway.

Amtrak reported two cancellations; trains to Quincy (the Carl Sandburg and Illinois Zephyr) will not run on Monday. Other than that, there were some delays but no major problems, an Amtrak spokesman said.

On area expressways, Illinois State Police officers in District Chicago responded to multiple crashes on the Dan Ryan, Kennedy, Stevenson and Eisenhower expressways, though no major injuries were reported, Trooper John Sieczka said Sunday.

At the height of the storm, suspected weather-related issues plagued more than 54,000 ComEd customers. As of 4:30 a.m., only 2,700 customers remained without power. 550 contracted crews are working to restore power to customers early Monday.

The federal courthouse in Chicago planned to close Monday. Jurors must report for duty on Tuesday, officials said.

Contributing: Fran Spielman, Stefano Esposito, Mitch Dudek, Ashlee Rezin, Jordan Owen, Mitch Armentrout, Luke Wilusz, Reema Amin, George Slefo.

Commuters slug through the snow near Franklin and Wacker Monday morning.  |  Al Podgorski /  Sun-Times Media

Commuters slug through the snow near Franklin and Wacker Monday morning. | Al Podgorski / Sun-Times Media

Nora McMahon, 5, (left) Ella Keaton, 3, (center) Annie Quinn, 4 (right)  and Oskar Almar, 2 (back) pretend to be running from a snow monster Sunday in the Sauganash neighborhood. | Michael Schmidt/Sun-Times

Nora McMahon, 5, (left) Ella Keaton, 3, (center) Annie Quinn, 4 (right) and Oskar Almar, 2 (back) pretend to be running from a snow monster Sunday in the Sauganash neighborhood. | Michael Schmidt/Sun-Times

Dan Kehoe clears his driveway Sunday on Kingsdale Avenue. "It's better when you're a kid (because) you don't have to move it. I still love it." | Michael Schmidt/Sun-Times

Dan Kehoe clears his driveway Sunday on Kingsdale Avenue. “It’s better when you’re a kid (because) you don’t have to move it. I still love it.” | Michael Schmidt/Sun-Times

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Not everyone stayed inside as conditions worsened late Sunday morning in Lincoln Park during a strong winter storm blowing through Chicago. | Craig M. Newman / Sun-Times

Not everyone stayed inside as conditions worsened late Sunday morning in Lincoln Park during a strong winter storm blowing through Chicago. | Craig M. Newman / Sun-Times

As winds became stronger and snowfall increased late Sunday morning, walking became a face-stinging exercise in endurance in Chicago. | Craig M. Newman / Sun-Times

As winds became stronger and snowfall increased late Sunday morning, walking became a face-stinging exercise in endurance in Chicago. | Craig M. Newman / Sun-Times

Chicago, the sign and the city, was plastered with snow during a strong winter storm raging through the Midwest on Sunday. | Craig M. Newman / Sun-Times

Chicago, the sign and the city, was plastered with snow during a strong winter storm raging through the Midwest on Sunday. | Craig M. Newman / Sun-Times

As conditions worsened Sunday in Chicago, some pedestrians took to the streets, which were marginally more clear than sidewalks. | Craig M. Newman / Sun-Times

As conditions worsened Sunday in Chicago, some pedestrians took to the streets, which were marginally more clear than sidewalks. | Craig M. Newman / Sun-Times

Despite heavy, blowing snow and blizzard conditions, joggers still made their way to the lakeshore on Sunday in Chicago. | Craig M. Newman / Sun-Times

Despite heavy, blowing snow and blizzard conditions, joggers still made their way to the lakeshore on Sunday in Chicago. | Craig M. Newman / Sun-Times

A snow plow works on Clark Street in Lincoln Park as the city's snow clearing forces struggled to keep up with heavy snowfall and rapid accumulation on Sunday. | Craig M. Newman / Sun-Times

A snow plow works on Clark Street in Lincoln Park as the city’s snow clearing forces struggled to keep up with heavy snowfall and rapid accumulation on Sunday. | Craig M. Newman / Sun-Times

A peaceful scene in Ravenswood marks a mess in the making as snow accumulates on cars, tree limbs and roads in a major winter storm. | Craig M. Newman / Sun-Times

A peaceful scene in Ravenswood marks a mess in the making as snow accumulates on cars, tree limbs and roads in a major winter storm. | Craig M. Newman / Sun-Times

Chicagoans turn out with shovels and blowers to try to keep sidewalks somewhat clear during a major winter storm – a battle that will become more difficult as winds pick up in the afternoon. | Craig M. Newman / Sun-Times

Chicagoans turn out with shovels and blowers to try to keep sidewalks somewhat clear during a major winter storm – a battle that will become more difficult as winds pick up in the afternoon. | Craig M. Newman / Sun-Times