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Heaviest snowfall of the winter blankets Chicago area

A Schaumburg police officer directs traffic outside of Portillos along Golf Road in Schaumburg, Illinois, Tuesday, February 26, 2013.
A Schaumburg police officer directs traffic outside of Portillos along Golf Road in Schaumburg, Illinois, Tuesday, February 26, 2013.

(MCT) — CHICAGO — The storm that struck in mid-morning had socked the Chicago area with the season’s biggest snowfall by Tuesday evening and could drop another inch or two as it lingers through Wednesday, forecasters said.

That means the morning rush hour could be a bit messy, thought it’s not expected to be nearly as bad as Tuesday’s evening commute was for motorists like Bob Reed of Geneva, who blamed sloppy drivers more than sloppy roads.

“When it snows like this, it’s like there are no traffic laws at all,” Reed said. “Normally we have very aggressive drivers, but now we’ve got people going the wrong way down one-way streets, people jumping out of line to pass you.”

The northern suburbs were hit hardest, with some areas reporting six to seven inches of snow Tuesday night. Many city and suburban schools closed early and canceled sporting games and practices. O’Hare and Midway airports canceled flights and delayed.

Cars and buses slid into ditches and crashed into each other on slick roads. The Illinois Tollway and Chicago’s Streets and Sanitation department dispatched their full fleets of snow plows and salt trucks.

Snow fell at a rate of up to two inches an hour in some northern suburbs. Any snow Wednesday won’t be nearly that intense, said meteorologist Casey Sullivan of the National Weather Service. Leaving early for the morning commute, however, won’t be a bad idea, he said.

In a winter of sparse snowfall, some welcomed the storm with enthusiasm — particularly those who stand to profit from it. James Koch, the owner of Jimbo’s Plowing Service in Tinley Park, said the snow was a gift in a winter that’s been so far a bust for plow truck drivers.

Koch invested in a new truck and plow after the record snow fall during the 2011 Groundhog Day blizzard. In the winters since, including this one so far, he has failed to realize the returns he expected on his investment, he said.

“It ain’t like what it used to be,” Koch said. “Chicago always had a good snowfall, and now we’re not getting snow until January. If you don’t get a big snow in December in this business, you’re basically playing catch-up all year.”

The snow also gave fresh life to plans for winter recreation. Gloria Morison, of Highland Park, was at a brunch Tuesday morning when she saw the first flakes fall. She said she immediately started making plans to try out a brand new pair of cross country skis, thinking she could go down her street before the plows came to get to the Green Bay trail.

“I also have snow shoes, but everyone’s been telling me, and I agree, that it’s a little more fun to be out on the cross country skis,” Morison said.

In the southern suburbs, the snow was not nearly as fierce Some areas got just an inch of snow.

Public Works Director Dale Schepers said the snow hasn’t caused much trouble in Tinley Park this winter. “It was snowing pretty viciously for a while, but it’s not accumulating too fast,” Schepers said Tuesday.

In an average year in the village, plow trucks hit the streets about 26 times. So far this year, Schepers said he’s had to scramble his plowing crews 13 times.

By 6 p.m. Tuesday, the official snowfall total was 3.8 inches at O’Hare International Airport, according to the weather service. That brought the official total for the season to 17.4 inches, and for the month of February to 13.9 inches.

Chicago Transit Authority buses had a hard time navigating some roads Tuesday. A few buses got stuck near North Stockton Drive and West Dickens Avenue Tuesday afternoon, Chicago Police Department News Affairs said.

“Obviously, we’re advising operators to drive with caution,” CTA spokesperson Lambrini Lukidis said.

With snow forecast to fall periodically on Wednesday and Thursday, drivers should continue to heed that advice, said Sullivan of the weather service. Even after the storm passes there could be some more store, with unrelated lake effect snow possible Friday, he said.

“We’ll see,” he said.


(Tribune reporters Ryan Haggerty and Naomi Nix contributed)

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