Chicago blizzard


The Blizzard of 2011 turned out to be Chicago’s third-biggest snowstorm on record, with 20.2 inches of snowfall measured at O’Hare Airport. (Does anyone know why the official measurement for Chicago comes from O’Hare instead of Midway or elsewhere? I tweeted this question to Tom Skilling and WGN, but so far I’ve received no response.)

About the same amount of snow reportedly fell in the Ottawa area, where I reside. According to the La Salle NewsTribune, the highest snowfall measured in Ottawa previously was 14 inches on Jan. 23, 1898. This morning, three different snow depths were measured in Ottawa: 20 inches, 16.5 inches and 14.5 inches. The problem, however, is that there was so much blowing and drifting that it is difficult to get an accurate measurement. (For example, there is a 40-inch-tall snow drift behind my garage, but I can still see the grass in another part of my backyard.)

Now begins the big dig-out throughout the Midwest.

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I noticed, while watching various press conferences Chicago officials have held about the blizzard, that I bear a passing resemblance to CTA President Richard Rodriguez — well, at least the beard and the short stature. Now if I can just get ahold of one of those red CTA caps he’s worn at every presser, I can complete the look and have my costume ready for Halloween this year.

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I’m writing this during the calm before the storm – the major snowstorm predicted to be one of the 10 biggest in Chicago history.

During today’s noon newscast, WGN chief meteorologist Tom Skilling predicted 12 to 20-plus inches of snow throughout the area by the time the snowstorm ends Wednesday morning. For La Salle County (where I reside), his forecast called for 9.5 inches of snow to fall by 9 p.m. Tuesday and 18.3 inches by 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Some light snow is expected overnight tonight, but most of the snowfall will come courtesy of the storm expected to reach this area Tuesday afternoon. Whiteout conditions are expected to arrive around rush hour, with 40-55 mph wind gusts adding to the heavy snowfall, which could come at a rate of 1-3 inches an hour at the peak of the storm.

Since I don’t have to drive in the storm, I’m looking forward to it. This supposedly will be one of the biggest snowstorms to hit Chicago since winter records began being kept in 1884-85. Here are the five biggest snowstorms in Chicago history:

1. January 26-27, 1967: 23 inches

2. January 1-3, 1999: 21.6 inches

3. March 25-26, 1930: 19.2 inches

4. January 13-14, 1979: 18.8 inches

5. March 7-8, 1931: 16.2 inches

I clearly remember the 1999 snowstorm, especially the part where I went sledding with some friends in Elmhurst. I also vaguely recollect the 1979 snowstorm, when I was a couple months shy of my 4th birthday. I remember the snow piled way above my head in the front yard, and the giant icicle that formed on the side of our house. My dad took down the icicle and held it next to me while my mom snapped a photo of us. (I tried to include the photo here, but had trouble posting it. Maybe I’ll be more successful later.)

So what will be the main memory I take away from this snowstorm? Only time will tell — but I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully it will be a pleasant one.