Snowstorm smothers Southland
BY STEVE METSCH firstname.lastname@example.org March 5, 2013 10:10AM
Community High School District 218 schools are closing at 1 p.m. Tuesday and are opening an hour late Wednesday, starting at 9 a.m. Buses will make their stops an hour later than normal times.
Lincoln-Way Community High School District 210 schools are closed Tuesday.
Consolidated High School District 230 schools and partner elementary school districts are closed Tuesday.
All Homewood School District 153 and Flossmoor School District 161 schools are closed Tuesday.
Updated: April 7, 2013 6:08AM
Slick roads, snow-shoveling duty and antsy kids were among the challenges facing Southlanders on Tuesday as forecasts calling for heavy snow began to come to fruition.
Many schools throughout the area decided Monday night to cancel Tuesday classes, even though there was little more than a dusting of snow in the south suburbs until about 8 a.m.
But by 9 a.m., it was obvious that the leading edge of a snowstorm that could drop up to 8 inches on the Chicago area had arrived, with the potential to make the Tuesday afternoon and evening commute a “nightmare,” according to the National Weather Service.
By 1 p.m., the snow was about 4 inches deep in Frankfort, a resident reported.
Snow continued falling throughout the afternoon, but there wasn’t the rash of accidents that law enforcement officials feared.
There was one weather-related accident in Mokena, Police Chief Randy Rajewksi said. A garbage truck that was making the rounds at 9:56 a.m. slid and took out a streetlight at 195th Street and Stratton Court, he said. No one was injured, he said.
Oak Lawn Deputy Police Chief Mike Kaufman said there were no major weather related accidents in Oak Lawn.
“There appears there are less people on the road. It has curtailed road traffic,” Kaufmann said. “There’s been a couple minor crashes, but nothing involving serious injuries.”
The same held true in Tinley Park and Orland Park, police said.
“People are being careful,” Orland Park Sgt. Scott Malmborg said.
State police reported no major accidents Tuesday. A few vehicles had slid into ditches with no serious injuries reported, a dispatcher said.
The storm was on the minds of people shopping Tuesday morning at the Park Ace hardware store in Orland Hills.
Employee Sue Mikes said people were in buying salt and shovels, including one woman whose shovel broke last week.
Orland Park resident Mike Arndt, 66, came in to buy a 40-pound can of Ice Melt for his driveway, which is 25 feet long and two-car-lengths wide.
“It took until March for us to get a bad one,” Arndt said of the snowstorm. “But this winter has been great. It’s been an easy winter, my kind of winter.”
Mention of all the school closings prompted employee Desiree Fiorini, of Orland Hills, to say today’s kids have it easy.
“When I was in school, we’d wait for the bus until somebody drove by and told us the school was closed. We’d wait out there in the snow and in the cold,” she said. “C’mon. We’re tough. We’re from Chicago.”
Brian Delaney, 51, of Tinley Park, was at the store, 9545 W. 167th St., buying a shovel ... for the second day in a row.
“This shovel is for my mom’s driveway,” he said — Mom being Jean Delaney, of Homewood. “I’m going to go there first to shovel her driveway and then do mine later.”
Snow blowers aren’t quite mythical creations to Delaney, but they aren’t his weapon of choice against snowstorms.
“I do have a snowblower, but I like to shovel because it gets down close to the pavement,” he said.
A little snow failed to prevent four Tinley Park women from attending their weekly pinochle games in the senior drop-in room at the Tony Bettenhausen Recreation Center, 8125 W. 171st St., Tinley Park.
Jackqueline Davidson, 85, was joined by Beatrice Jenen, 93, Esther Stratton, 85, and Joan Dwyer, 75 — all of whom would hate to miss playing with such high stakes, 25 cents a game.
“Tuesday’s the big day of the week. We play cards regardless of the weather, and we play for money. We don’t care about the weather. My husband encouraged me to drive here,” Davidson said.
Dwyer, who likes snow and used to ski, was happy to see Tuesday’s snowfall.
Two boys from Orland Hills were also happy because the forecast closed Praire View Middle School, 8500 W. 175th St., Tinley Park. Eighth-grader Lance Lerman, 14, and seventh-grader Ryan Rolder were the only kids playing basketball at the recreation center. At 10 a.m., Lance usually would be in his economics class, and Ryan would be in math class. Instead, they were playing one-on-one.
“I probably won’t miss school,” Ryan said with a smile.
National Weather Service meteorologist David Beachler said the snowfall would “start to crank up in intensity over the next few hours.”
The weather service issued a winter storm warning for all Chicago-area counties starting at 9 a.m.
More than 770 flights had been canceled at O’Hare and more than 215 at Midway by midmorning.
Meteorologists initially believed as much as 10 inches could blanket the area, but those predictions were downgraded by the time the storm hit.
Now it is believed 4 to 8 inches will pile up across a broad swath of the Chicago region, stretching from southern McHenry County in the north to Kankakee County in the south, according to the weather service.
Weather service meteorologist Jamie Enderlen predicted the afternoon commute “is probably going to be an utter mess. By late morning through the evening, we’re expecting some pretty heavy snowfall, up to an inch or two inches per hour. That could cause a traffic nightmare. When it falls that quick, plows have a hard time keeping up with it.”
Areas closer to Lake Michigan could see higher snow totals because winds off the lake could create lake-effect snow.
Wind gusts up to 30 mph will cause blowing and drifting snow, bringing visibility down to a quarter-mile or less on roadways.
The weather service advised people who must drive to keep an extra flashlight, food and water in the vehicle in case of an emergency.
Road crews rolled out in force early Tuesday. Chicago’s full fleet of 284 plows hit the city’s main routes and Lake Shore Drive, and the Illinois Tollway deployed all of its 182 snowplows.
“With the brunt of the storm expected to move across the Illinois Tollway system, we ask our customers to be patient, drive safely and give our snowplows the room they need to clear the roads,” Illinois Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur said in a statement.
Illinois State Police are urging drivers to leave early, slow down and leave plenty of following room, officials said in a travel advisory issued Monday night.
Authorities also are encouraging motorists involved in noninjury crashes during extreme weather conditions to exchange information and file crash reports at their nearest state police district within 10 days.
Tuesday’s snowstorm has the potential to be the largest of the season, and one of the largest in March since 2002 or 2003, according to the weather service.
The most snow the area has seen so far this winter was 5.4 inches measured at O’Hare International Airport on Feb. 26-27, the weather service said. That storm blanketed north suburban Antioch with 12.1 inches of snow.
When the snow stops and it’s time to start shoveling, the DuPage County Health Department has these safety tips: warm up your muscles; pace yourself; use a shovel that is comfortable for your height and strength; push the snow instead of lifting it if possible, and don’t throw the snow over your shoulder or to the side.
For those yearning for spring, warmer weather is not too far off, according to the weather service. The temperature is expected to reach 41 degrees Friday and 44 degrees Saturday.
Contributing: Leeann Shelton, Michael Lansu and Casey Toner