Snow's wrath: bad roads, closed schools, canceled flights
People are starting to dig out Monday after heavy snow wreaked havoc throughout the suburbs, causing school closures, dangerous road conditions and hundreds of flight cancellations.
The Community Collaborative Rain, Snow, and Hail Network recorded between 3 inches and 10 inches of snow overnight. The website claims Elk Grove Village, Roselle, St. Charles, and Schaumburg received 10 inches or more, while Palatine took in about 6 inches, and Gurnee and Mundelein recorded 8 inches or more.
Kevin Donofrio of the National Weather Service said early Monday areas north and west of the city received the heaviest snowfall totals overnight. Rockford picked up 11.7 inches of snow, while Woodstock picked up 11.5 inches.
The National Weather Service had much of the Chicago region under a winter storm warning Sunday, calling for as much as a foot of snow in areas north and west of the city and 4 to 8 inches west and south.
Forecasters also warned of "extremely dangerous" travel conditions and urged drivers to stay off the roads.
Several suburban school districts made the decision Sunday night to cancel the next day's classes and extracurricular activities, including those based in Elgin, Schaumburg, St. Charles, Gurnee, Grayslake, Antioch and Algonquin. People seeking to keep track of their school can check the emergency closing center website.
Donofrio said O'Hare International Airport received 7.4-inches of snow, while Midway Airport only received 3.4-inches.
More than 400 flights have been canceled at O'Hare early Monday, and delays were reaching 30 minutes. At Midway, only about 68 flights were canceled and delays were about 15 minutes.
According to the Chicago Department of Aviation, 748 flights out of O'Hare International Airport were canceled by 9 p.m. Sunday. Another 124 flights out of Midway Airport were canceled.
Passengers at the United terminal Sunday afternoon were hastily readjusting their schedules, as their flights were shuffled.
Rick Galloway, flying with three other family members to Kansas City, said two flights he'd planned to take had been canceled. He was hoping that the third flight, at 3:55 p.m., would prove the charm.
"We were alerted Friday that we needed to change our original flight," he said. "We made the change, then that flight was canceled this morning. Then we made an additional change, and then that change was changed. So now we have new seat assignments, and our gate is to be determined."
Annie Altaf, of Windsor Locks, Connecticut, was seated in the United terminal, feeding her 16-month-old daughter Aaliya as she awaited her flight. She had been attending her brother's wedding in Lisle over the weekend. Their flight time had been changed three times.
"We have a toddler, and it's very hard to get our flights canceled, because we have to get home," she said. "It's hard to travel with her, and we can't sit at the airport all night."
Julia Nordhem of Evanston, headed back to school at the University of Kansas, originally was scheduled for a 10 a.m. departure, but was rebooked for an afternoon flight. She said she feels lucky to be getting out.
"I was glad that United managed the flight change without any hassle," her mom, Elaine, said. "So, 10 points for United today."
Winds gusting as high as 45 miles per hour were predicted overnight, creating blizzard conditions in some areas. A lakeshore flood warning is in effect from 9 p.m. Sunday until 6 a.m. Monday for Cook and Lake counties.
Rain and a wintry mix of precipitation transitioned into heavier snow in the suburbs by Sunday night, with high winds, "thundersnow," white-out conditions and snow falling at a rate of 2 or more inches per hour in some areas, according to the National Weather Service. The worst part of the storm was predicted to last until about 4 a.m. Monday.
Roads throughout the Chicago area were completely or partially covered with snow or ice Sunday night, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation.
The Illinois tollway said it was deploying its full fleet of 196 snowplows in response to the storm. Drivers whose vehicles become disabled on a toll road should dial *999 from a cellphone for assistance from Illinois State Police District 15, the tollway said.
"Our top priority is keeping our customers safe and we're prepared for the challenges we will face this winter, which includes not only keeping our roads clear of snow and ice but also assisting customers whose vehicles become disabled," Executive Director Liz Gorman said.
ComEd opened its Emergency Operations Center and increased crews in preparation for outages. A map on its website showed hundreds of outages stretching from Lake and McHenry counties and into DuPage, Kane, and Cook counties. The outages affected thousands of customers early Monday.
Donofrio said he expects the snow to move out of the area by 8 a.m. Monday, with temperature hovering near 30 degrees. Winds from 15 to 20 miles per hour are expected to decrease to 10 to 15 miles per hour in the afternoon.
Monday night, it is expected to be partly cloudy with a low around 13 and a west/northwest wind around 10 miles per hour.
In DuPage County, meanwhile, Route 59 was closed Monday morning near Warrenville and West Chicago between Mack Road and Joliet Street because of a low-hanging wire, Warrenville City Administrator John Coakley said. ComEd has told Warrenville officials crews are en route to fix the wire, but are "severely delayed" in response time because of conditions on other roads needed to access the site.
In Naperville, the city's electric utility was reporting two power outages, one that likely will last 12 hours before power is restored, city spokeswoman Linda LaCloche said.
Because of three downed trees and a problem with a transformer, 79 customers west of downtown Naperville near Burlington Park lost power about 6 a.m. and are not expected to have service restored until 6 p.m.
A second outage in Naperville affecting 36 customers in a subdivision near Gartner Road and Elmwood Elementary School is expected to be fixed by 11 a.m. This outage also was caused by a downed tree.
LaCloche said the city's 22 plows as well as outside contractors have been on the roads since 5 p.m. Sunday working 12-hour shifts, making roads safe for all who need to travel this morning. The city hopes to make one plowing pass over all roadways by 4 p.m.
"But given these conditions, you're not going to see clear roadways," LaCloche said.
In Bensenville, Village Manager Evan Summers said "public works plow crews hit the pavement around 6 p.m. Sunday and are running on 16-hour shifts. It was a lot of snow especially for the first snowfall of the year, but we are handling it well. We have had several trees that came down due to the weight of the snow and the wind so our forestry crews will be addressing those over the next couple of days. Unusually, it seems a lot of private plow contractors may be overestimating their abilities; several of our public works employees are reporting that they've assisted in pulling driveway contractors out of the snow."
"Power outages remain an issue and we are working with our partners at ComEd to get more information on the expected time of restoration," Summers said. "Police have had a few requests for wellness checks that they've been conducting and we are encouraging our residents without power to seek refuge in our warming shelters."
In Geneva, ComEd's power lines that serve several city substations on the west side fell, affecting "a large number" of customers, according to a city news release. Power was restored by rerouting service from other substations.
Falling tree branches took down power lines and poles that serve areas along Dunstan Road south of Fargo Boulevard, and Hawthorne Lane south of Cheever Avenue.
The damaged trees and branches are being pushed off to the side of the road, and will be picked up at a later date.
In Lombard, Village Manager Scott Niehaus says the biggest problem for the village has been the heavy nature of the snow. "Lots of power lines hanging low and that makes some streets difficult for us to use our larger vehicles," he said.
He also that 14 trees came down and some are blocking roads until the village can have them moved. There also were some power outages Sunday night.
Specific problems include Westmore-Meyers, between Madison and St. Charles, being inaccessible for large trucks due to sagging power lines. The intersection of Charlotte and Prairie is also closed due to downed power lines.
• Daily Herald staff writers Lauren Rohr, Lee Filas, Justin Kmitch, Susan Sarkauskas, Robert Sanchez and Marie Wilson contributed to this report.