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Winter Storm Warning remains in effect: Chicago area gets first snow of the season

Thursday, December 20, 2012
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A Winter Storm Warning remains in effect for most of the Chicago area. Hundreds of flights are delayed or canceled at Midway and O'Hare airports.

For many, this first significant storm of the season will be remembered less for the snow and more for the wind.

The snow was falling Thursday night and power lines were failing.

Firefighters in DeKalb have been responding to scenes like this all night.

In the south part of the city, a downed power line put on a light show that had neighbors nervous.

"I just happened to be looking out the back window, and I saw this ball. And it looked like it was getting bigger and bigger. So I called him over and he said something's on fire," said Brenda Hoiness.

With power out on the entire block, Hoiness and her family decided to leave with Thursday night's dinner and a freezer-full of other food.

"Got some overnight clothes. That's the best we can do, right? It's crazy," she said.

The storm wreaked havoc on the roadways, causing numerous spin-outs.

For drivers it was winter wake-up call.

"All the roads seem to be really slippery as they're accumulating snow," said Harry Tallacksen. "My guess is most drivers probably aren't ready for it. This is our first run in slippery weather."

"Don't be out tonight," said motorist Brian Rummelhart. "Try to stay in. Get your traveling in tomorrow if you can."

In DeKalb, the city is preparing for a multi-day snow-fighting effort.

"This is going to take several days," said DeKalb Public Works Director T.J. Moore. "In our particular instance, we've got parking lots, downtown, alleys. We've got a lot of different things to make sure are open and available for people."

Matt Mangum was at Gordon Hardware stocking up on salt Thursday night.

"We've got the snow blower ready," he said. "Getting the salt ready and hoping for the best but preparing for the worst."

He just completed his purchase when the power went out in the store. It's been that kind of night.

Power outages have affected many communities in northern Illinois. The hardest hit locations are in DeKalb and the Rockford areas with more than 17,000 customers are affected while 1,500 are affected in the city of Chicago.

ComEd says about 600 crews are in the field working to restore power.

City, state snow plows, salt trucks prep for storm

The Illinois Tollway says its 182 snowplows are ready to go for the storm. The Tollway has canceled all temporary lane closures between noon today and the morning of December 26.

The city said it is prepared with salt and plows.

The Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation says that it has 285,000 tons of salt on hand. There are 284 snow vehicles, and plows on standby to attack the winter blast.

The department is implementing its real-time Plow Tracker, which allows the public to see snow plow locations throughout the city. Snow plows can be tracked through this link: cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/mayor/iframe/plow_tracker.html.

If you find yourself driving around a snowplow, give them space to do their job, said IDOT's Bill Helm.

Here's why: Snowplows travel about 30 mph. Plows have computer-operated salt dispensers. If a plow travels less than 12 mph, there are problems.

"If we're stuck in traffic and we only move 4 feet at a time, the machine doesn't actually start to distribute the salt," said Michael Vick, IDOT driver and heavy equipment operator.

To help snowplows, IDOT recommends staying behind them. Do not jump ahead of a plow, even you think there is space. And do not box them in traffic.

"The most important message we can get out today is to make sure that everyone slows down," said Illinois State Police Capt. Luis Gutierrez. "It's going to be treacherous and dangerous road conditions and we want to make sure everyone gets home safely."

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