|Full Coverage: Blizzard 2011|
The third worst storm (and counting) in recorded Chicagohistory has prompted officials to call for a state of emergency in Cook County.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle declared a state of emergency Wednesday of the severe winter storm andthe hazardous travel conditions it created, according to a release from the president’s office.
For evidence, more than 69,000 homes are still without power. 44,000 are in the city.
The Cook County Highway Department, the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, and the Department of Facilities Management are among the Departments that will continue services, according to the release.
All other non-essential offices will be closed and non-essential employees should stay home. All services will resume on February 3, 2011. Cook County Hospitals will remain open, but Preckwinkle is asking Independent Health and Hospitals System officials to allow non-essential staff to remain home as well, according to the release.
Emergency management agencies in both Will and Lake counties have also declared states of emergency and closed all roads to traffic shortly by 4:30 a.m. because of “life-threatening” blizzard conditions, according to a notification on the National Weather Service’s website.
“We’re having a hard time getting people that are stranded on the roads,” said Deputy Chief Kevin Parker of the Lake County Sheriff’s Department. “We’ve had some people stranded for hours, and we’re just getting to them now.”
Those stranded included motorists stuck on open expressways, and plows and trucks are having a hard time reaching them, Parker said. Especially difficult spots include portions of Illinois routes 60, 45 and 173, all of which are closed in places, Parker said, describing the situation as “horrendous.”
Emergency management agencies in both Will and Lake counties have closed all roads to traffic shortly by 4:30 a.m. because of “life-threatening” blizzard conditions, according to a notification on the national weather service’s website.
Driving will be “nearly impossible” for the next several hours, and emergency crews may not be able to respond to stranded motorists despite using all resources to try to reach them, according to the notification. Driving except when absolutely necessary may “put your life at risk,” the notification warns.
Things are only going to get worse/
The National Weather Service calls the storm "crippling and potentially killer," saying conditions will persist through the morning and winds are still exceeding 50 mph, making it potentially dangerous for people to leave their homes.
The storm is expected to gradually shift into northwest Indiana by late morning to the afternoon. Snowfall should end over north-central Illinois early this morning and over northeast Illinois by late afternoon.
A wind chill is in effect tonight through Thursday morning. Overnight, bitter temperatures could dip as low as 5 below zero downtown and 20 below in the suburbs.
Throughout the city, people are feeling the effects of hazardous conditions. More than 69,000 ComEd customers are still without power, 44,000 of them in the Chicago area.
Cars are still stranded on Lakeshore Drive after commuters were stuck there for hours last night. It is unknown if the road will be reopened in coming hours. In Lake, Kane and Will Counties, all roads remain closed.
Other closed strips include: I-80 west of Morris, I-88 west of Rock Falls and all of I-39. Above-ground Kimball stops on the Brown Line also are closed.
The National Weather Service warns that drifting snow will make shoveling very difficult. In 1999, more than 40 people died of heart attacks while shoveling, according to the NWS.