Snow cancels events, makes roads treacherous
The season's first major snowstorm pounded the suburbs Sunday, pouring as much as 16 inches of snow on some parts of the region, challenging those brave or foolhardy enough to venture out and leaving everyone who needs to be somewhere Monday morning with the task of digging out.
The National Weather Service forecasts only mild snowfalls for the rest of the week, but because temperatures are set to stay below freezing the snow may be piled up for a while.
Many school districts across the suburbs announced by Sunday night that they would be closed Monday.
"The single most important factor in making our decision is the safety of our students and staff," read a message on Elk Grove Township Elementary District 59's website Sunday evening. "While we always work diligently to have our schools open for our students, the conditions for tomorrow morning present a significant safety risk with the considerable amount of snow that fell."
A list of closings can be found on the Emergency Closing Center website at emergencyclosingcenter.com.
With so many schools closed, several YMCA locations across the suburbs will offer daylong School Days Out programs to assist parents with childcare challenges, according to a release Sunday night. A list of participating YMCA locations can be found at ymcachicago.org.
By 6 p.m. Sunday, 14.2 inches of snow had fallen at O'Hare International Airport which, according to the National Weather Service, is less than an inch below the record for snowfall on a single February day.
Airlines were experiencing delays of more than 45 minutes at O'Hare and had canceled nearly 1,300 flights by late Sunday afternoon, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation.
ComEd reported scattered electrical outages throughout the region. The utility said it had restored power to around 41,000 customers, but 10,000 were still without power as of 8:30 p.m.
Gov. Bruce Rauner said in a news release Sunday afternoon that, despite the dangerous conditions, there had been no serious weather-related injuries or fatalities reported. According to the governor's release, state agencies are prepared to help local first responders, but no one had requested their aid yet.
Kane County Sheriff's Lt. Pat Gengler said Sunday evening that road conditions in the western part of the county had deteriorated to the point that all roads west of Route 47 were "basically impassable."
"We anticipate conditions getting to the point where we are not able to get to people who become stuck," Gengler said.
The snow and winds gusting up to 40 mph created blizzard conditions that forced businesses to close and canceled events across the area.
Rauner called off his scheduled public appearance with Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti at St. Pius V Catholic Church in Chicago.
Even Anna and Elsa, the sisters from "Frozen," had to admit defeat. The "Disney On Ice" show canceled its Sunday-evening performance at the United Center due to the snow.
And while the conditions may have been a big hit with the polar bears at the Brookfield Zoo, it wasn't with the people who run the facility. The zoo was closed Sunday because of the conditions, and officials at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago closed at noon. Both zoos are set to reopen Monday.
However, the Geneva Park District plowed ahead with its Super Shuffle 5K race.
"We have had a lot worse," said Traci Wicks, the district's marketing and public relations director. "Last year we had a foot of snow on the ground already, and it was very cold."
At Naperville's Snow Command, officials dispatched all 22 of the city's snow plows. Drivers were on 12-hour shifts, and will keep working until the snow is cleared, said Linda LaCloche, communications manager. One problem has been the weight of the snow.
"We're seeing some issues with tree limbs" falling on to streets, LaCloche said.
Westfield Fox Valley mall in Aurora announced it would close at 3 p.m. and Lou Malnati's Pizzeria announced it was closing all its Chicago-area locations at 7 p.m., a tough decision on what would normally be one of the busiest nights of the year because of the Super Bowl.
The weather also was forcing stores to close early at the Oak Brook Center, which was bad news for Hinsdale teens Jimmy MacMahon, 16, and his sister Maddie MacMahon, 14, who had important last-minute shopping to do.
"It's for our mom's birthday," Jimmy said. "It's today."
One of the only stores open past 3 p.m. was Macy's, where the number of sales associates nearly outnumbered the customers.
"There's a girl up there running four departments," said Joyce Ryan, a Beverly resident who braced a 22-mile drive to the DuPage County mall because she had to return an item.
Not everyone was unhappy about the snow. Although a snowmobile show in Wauconda was canceled by the weather, snowmobile enthusiasts were thrilled Sunday after a winter that so far has been without major snowfalls.
"I'm just glad we got to get out this year," said Jenny Therens of Wauconda as she went snowmobiling with her husband, Tony. "We like the snow."
Jason Heiger of Buffalo Grove didn't seem to mind either, as he used a snowblower to clear his sidewalk and driveway Sunday afternoon.
"I think it's awesome! I love the snow," he said. "And when I'm done, I can go inside and get warm,"
Football fans were safe and warm inside the Fox & Hound in Arlington Heights, according to the bar's general manager, Hugh Leonard.
"The people here are in good spirits and don't want to leave," Leonard said. "They want to stay in as long as possible."
Leonard said two women showed up in snow shoes and ski poles to pick up a carryout order of hot wings for their Super Bowl party.
"When I saw them walk in I said 'no way,'" Leonard said. "Those are dedicated fans."
• Daily Herald staff writer Gilbert Boucher II contributed to this story.