Officials hope to clear out residential streets. Rob Elgas reports.
There was good news late Thursday for Chicago residents digging their way out of residential neighborhoods: Snow crews were on the way.
The Department of Streets and Sanitation's full fleet of 287 snow plows and salt spreaders and 26 smaller four-wheel drive snow plows were redeployed Thursday evening to side and residential streets, officials said. For roughly two days, those crews focused their attention on keeping the city's main roads and Lake Shore Drive cleared of snow.
For the most part, that left residents along the city's side streets on their own.
"We have great neighbors. Everybody takes care of each other, and we take care of the seniors and do what we can," said Terri Machel.
The snowfall made it clear that another Chicago tradition -- dibs -- was alive and well.
"It's a Chicago thing. You know, you put dibs down on your car [after clearing out your spot]," said Jackie Faig, who was digging out in advance of her Friday morning commute. "This neighborhood's really good about digging out and not worrying about putting chairs and things out."
City officials said that while they frown on the practice, residents won't get ticketed for calling "dibs" but will remove any furniture or items left behind to claim a public parking spot.
Alleys were a bigger adventure, with many impassable Thursday night.
Snow began falling on New Year's Eve and continued through New Year's Day. Thursday brought a lake effect, with several more inches of snow falling in communities along Lake Michigan.
"Lake effect snow showers typically align themselves in bands and will likely be intense enough to drop 1 to several inches of snow per hour for several hours," National Weather Service meteorologists said in an alert in advance of the snowfall.
By midday Thursday, Gurnee was the snowfall total leader with 18 inches reported. Fifteen inches were reported in Highwood and 12.8 inches fell in Elk Grove Village. In Indiana, 7.7 inches was recorded in Valparaiso and 6.4 inches reported in Porter.
Around 1 p.m. the National Weather Service reported "near white-out" conditions at its Chicago office and urged commuters to avoid travel. At 3:30 p.m. it reported an inch of snow falling in Rogers Park in a half-hour.
Office of Emergency Management and Communications executive director Gary Schenkel reminded Chicagoans to make sure the sidewalks and corners in front of their homes and businesses are cleared of snow to ensure that people with disabilities can get where they need.
"Times like these can bring out the best in people as they help one another to deal with the weather," he said.
In Evanston, officials there declared a snow emergency between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. for both Thursday and Friday. Free parking was made available in the three downtown self-parking garages.
The snow forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights -- more than 600 on Wednesday and more than 275 on Thursday -- at O'Hare International Airport. Staff there staff struggled to de-ice planes and clear runways of the 5.1 inches of snow recorded early Thursday morning. Inside the terminal, stranded passengers were trying desperately to get some sleep. They camped out on cots and watched movies or conversed if they couldn't get comfortable.
One soldier said her plane actually took off but then turned around mid-flight because the base to where she was headed lost power.
Midway International Airport was largely spared from cancellations but there were some minor flight delays.
Another chance for snow was in the forecast for Saturday, Sunday and Monday.