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Last Updated:

Mar 5, 2013 - 4:41:32 PM



As Winter Storm Rolls Through Midwest, Weather-Hardened Chicago Works To Make Sure Roads Clear

By Associated Press
Mar 5, 2013 - 4:17:52 PM

 

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CHICAGO — A late winter storm packing up to 10 inches of snow sent officials in weather-hardened Chicago into action Tuesday to prevent a repeat of scenes from two years ago, when hundreds of people in cars and buses were stranded on the city’s marquee thoroughfare during a massive blizzard.

Since the 2011 storm, which dumped 20 inches on Chicago, the nation’s third-largest city has had it pretty easy snow-wise. But the storm that was moving through Tuesday could end up dumping the most there since that blizzard, after a relatively mild winter last year and a slow start to this year’s.

Some other areas in the storm system’s path have had harsher weather in recent months. The system started Sunday in Montana, hit the Dakotas and Minnesota on Monday and then barreled through Wisconsin and Illinois on its way to Washington, D.C., where it was expected late Tuesday night.

Some in Chicago were caught off guard by the last gasp from Old Man Winter.

“I thought it was just media hype,” said Stacia Kopplin, who was fleeing her financial services job shortly after noon and walking through the blast of wet snow to catch a train home to the suburbs.

Schools were closed in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois, where officials urged caution on snow-slickened roads. In western Wisconsin, a semi-trailer slid off a snow-covered interstate near Menomonie and into the Red Cedar River, killing one person. Authorities said they were searching for a second person, believed to be a passenger.

Airlines canceled more than 1,100 flights at Chicago airports, prompting delays and closures at others around the region. Airlines along the storm’s projected path were already cutting flights too, including about 450 on Wednesday, most of them at Dulles and Reagan National airports in the Washington area, according to FlightAware.com. Daniel Baker, CEO of the flight-tracking service, said he expected the numbers to rise.

In Chicago, officials were working to keep Lake Shore Drive safe. The February 2011 blizzard embarrassed the city when hundreds of cars and buses were entombed in snow on the roadway that runs along Lake Michigan and people were trapped overnight.

City government has taken steps to prevent a repeat. Officials have opened a removable barrier in the median of the four-lane roadway to allow emergency vehicles quicker access to trouble spots. Plows and salt-spreading trucks are also in easier striking distance of Lake Shore Drive, and they started treating the roadway hours before snow began falling.

“We are prepared as a city to deal with this snow,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel at Chicago’s emergency snow command center, where officials keep an eye on a bank of TV monitors feeding in real-time images from 1,500 cameras and data from roadway sensors.

Alicia Aldrete was out taking her dog for a stroll in Madison, Wis.

“It’s not that bad at all,” said Aldrete, 47. “Just make sure you shovel immediately, put lots of salt on the ground and also store lots of food in case of emergency.”


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