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Winter-weary Southlanders persevere

Not long after collisiManhattan-Monee Road east Cedar involving two eastbound cars Wednesday Feb. 5 2014 plow comes through heading west.

Not long after a collision on Manhattan-Monee Road east of Cedar involving two eastbound cars on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, a plow comes through heading west. Other vehicles turned back, not attempting to pass, since the road was snow packed. | Erin Gallagher~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 7, 2014 1:26PM



Southland commuters surely wished they were driving a snowmobile, or better yet, heading to sunny Mexico instead of to work as they endured another cold, snowy, slushy mess Wednesday morning.

While complimenting road crews for “keeping up with it,” Bruce Lundborg, a Lockport motorist, said he didn’t expect conditions “to be this bad.”

“This is the slickest it’s been, given the amount of snow we have,” he said, as he filled his tank at the new Route 6 Food and Fuel at Cedar Road and U.S. 6, near the Interstate 355 interchange in New Lenox.

Kevin Stang agreed.

“It’s definitely a bit slipperier than I’m used to, and I take this route (Cedar Road and Southwest Highway) every day,” he said, as he filled up a gas can for his snowmobile. “It’s drifting so quickly, it’s like it wasn’t even plowed.”

The second major snow in four days officially brought about 7 more inches to a region already hit hard by this unforgiving winter — with mounds of snow bordering roads, driveways and parking lots and no sign of thawing temperatures to begin melting them down. A single-digit high and subzero wind chills are forecast for Thursday.

Expressways in the Chicago area saw dozens of crashes and spin-outs Wednesday morning, six of which involved injuries, though no one was seriously hurt, according to Illinois State Police.

A jackknifed semi truck caused delays on I-55 southbound, north of Illinois 6, and all lanes were reopened as of 11 a.m., state police said. They reported that icy conditions on I-80 between Harlem Avenue and LaSalle Road and I-55 south of I-80 caused several vehicles to lose control.

“I am so sick of winter. I cannot wait for spring and summer,” said Mokena resident Eve Lovell as she fueled up for her trip to Rosemont.

Her commute this winter has been 90 minutes one way, nearly twice the time it takes on a good day.

“I would have worked from home today, but I left my computer at work,” Lovell said.

Area drivers admitted on Wednesday that they were spoiled by the mild winters in recent years.

The National Weather Service said total snowfall in 2011-12 was a mere 19.8 inches, and 30.1 inches last winter. Tuesday night’s snowfall brought the official count at O’Hare International Airport to just shy of 60 inches this season.

That’s still well below the record 89.7 inches during the winter of 1978-79 — but three more weeks of meteorological winter remain so we still have a shot. The daily high is not expected to get out of the teens through Tuesday, and a few more inches of snow is predicted for Saturday night.

Some of us are getting acclimated to this winter’s wrath.

“You get used to it,” Tom Costello, of New Lenox, said Wednesday morning. “Six inches of snow with temperatures in the mid-20s — it’s not too bad. The roads are obviously slippery, but visibility is OK so far.”

Would he have been so chipper about such weather two months ago? We don’t think so.

And you can take heart that you weren’t an air traveler on Wednesday. By late afternoon, airlines at O’Hare had canceled 500 flights and those that were still a go were having delays of at least 30 minutes, Chicago’s aviation department reported. It said Midway Airport was averaging delays of 20 minutes and 50 flights had been canceled.

Amid this seemingly endless winter, we tried to find some reason for optimism. And we did.

All this bitter cold and snow has long-term benefits, said Margaret Burns-Westmeyer, master gardener and program coordinator for the University of Illinois Extension Office in Matteson.

“We will have a very green spring with lots of blooms,” she said.

The deep snow translates into deep moisture for plant roots, which have not seen much moisture in recent winters, she said. And the cold kills off unwanted insects and non-native invasive plant species, Burns-Westmeyer said.

“This winter has been fabulous. Embrace it. Enjoy it,” she said. “It’s the one time of year that birds are more visible and sounds are more audible. It’s a very elegant, very peaceful time of year.”

So there you go. It’s not all bad. And just think of how much more we’ll appreciate spring when it arrives. It will arrive, won’t it?

Contributing:
Sun-Times Media Wire



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