Weekend snow brings shovels, plane sliding off O'Hare runway, but fun for suburban adventurers
Sled hills and nature areas were just as busy Saturday as snowplows and salt trucks, as suburbanites dug out from -- and then looked to enjoy -- a weekend winter storm.
With initial snow totals between 4 and 10 inches across the region by Saturday afternoon, mother nature gave plenty of fodder for winter fun in the form of fluffy powder strewed about the area.
Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing at Morton Arboretum in Lisle gained popularity throughout the day, as did nature hiking and photography at Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe.
"We're seeing people come out to enjoy the new-fallen snow and get some exercise," said Darren Bochat, the Botanic Garden's senior director of visitor experience.
Sled hills across the suburbs, like the River Trails Park District's Woodland Trails hill in Mount Prospect, filled with thrill-seekers, as did larger slopes like Four Lakes Alpine Snowsports in Lisle.
But it wasn't all fun and games as the snow began to blanket the region overnight Friday into Saturday morning.
A plane slid off a runway at O'Hare International Airport about 11:30 a.m. Saturday, requiring the Chicago Fire Department's help evacuating passengers. No one was injured, aviation authorities said.
Snow snarled travel at both of Chicago's airports Saturday, with O'Hare reporting peak delays of 86 minutes, along with 1,008 cancellations as of Saturday afternoon, and Midway travelers experiencing an average of 15-minute delays with 86 cancellations.
Metra reported some midday delays on the Union Pacific West and Union Pacific North lines, while Amtrak canceled seven trains that otherwise would have headed through Chicago to Boston, New York and Washington, D.C.
And the shoveling effort took time in places like McHenry, which received 10 inches of snow, according to the National Weather Service's Chicago office, as well as Waukegan, with 9.1 inches and Highwood, with 8.8. Libertyville recorded 8.5 inches from the storm, while Buffalo Grove and Gurnee each totaled 7.9 inches.
Further south, slightly less snow piled up, with 5.2 inches reported in Batavia and 6 inches in Downers Grove. Blowing snow was an issue in some locations, however, causing limited visibility and patches of snow-covered roads, National Weather Service Meteorologist Ricky Castro said.
With the weekend timing, people got the chance to enjoy the snow wherever they saw fit.
For some, that meant pounding pavement on a south Naperville trail cleared through an agreement between the Naperville Park District and a shoe store.
Naperville Running Company owner Kris Hartner said his company pays for plowing of a 2-mile stretch of trail that spans from a Route 59 east through two parks to Naperville/Plainfield Road. Every time it snows 2 inches or more, park district crews clear the path, and Hartner's store pays the bill.
"One of the challenges is when it snows like this, on the sidewalks, some areas are shoveled, some are not. The roads aren't great, so you've got to find the spots you can to run," Hartner said. "Simply clearing that path is a real nice stretch to run safely and comfortably."
Running roads at the Morton Arboretum were closed Saturday beyond the main visitor's center and education center because of the snow. The Children's Garden was closed, too. But Patti MacMillan, public relations specialist, said the Arboretum itself remained open offering an indoor miniature train event for little ones and rentals of cross-country skis and snowshoes for traipsing around in the fresh powder.
"It is really pretty, fresh snow -- great for those kinds of activities," MacMillan said.
The National Weather Service predicts lakeside areas of Lake and Cook counties could see additional lake-effect snowfall of between 2 and 6 inches from Saturday evening to Sunday morning. Meteorologist Castro said eastern and central portions of DuPage and McHenry counties also could see lake-effect snow accumulate another inch or two, but Kane County and areas further west likely will see only flurries.
Temperatures are expected to drop the lowest furthest to the west, with predictions between 3 and 9 degrees for overnight, Castro said.
Closer to the lake, it's still expected to become quite cold overnight Saturday into Sunday, with forecast highs for the entire region only in the high teens on Sunday. Wind chills could dip as low as 5 to 15 degrees below zero, but wind speeds and blowing snow are expected to diminish.
"The winds will be on the downward trend," Castro said. "They're not going to be light or calm winds, but they're not going to be nearly what they are today."