Chicago Blizzard of 2011

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We were warned.  And Mother Nature did not disappoint.

The great blizzard of 2011 roared into Chicago with mighty force at around 3 p.m. and continues to pound the area.

The deluge of snow and wind knocked out power to tens of thousands of customers, blew out windows and delayed many commuters.  Some are still trying to make their way home.

"Main city streets downtown leading to the expressways are now JAMMED," said reporter Dick Johnson, who braved the conditions en-route to a live report. "Seems not enough took the endless warnings and storm start time seriously."

Predictions called for up to 24 inches of white stuff, and as of 1 a.m. it doesn't seem unlikely.

O’Hare International Airport saw 10.6 inches of snow between about 6 p.m. and midnight Wednesday and had a foot of snow on the ground at 12:20 a.m., according to a National Weather Service snow depth report.

That’s a significant increase from earlier, when only 2.8 inches of snow fell at the airport between noon and 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Midway International Airport, on the Southwest Side, was reporting 10.2 inches of snow on the ground as of about 10:45 p.m.

Officials from the Office of Emergency Management and Streets and Sanitation Department twice warned commuters not to test the roads. They suggested staying indoors and booking hotels over night.

"This will be a storm that a lot of people remember for a long time," said Jose Santiago, Executive Director of OEMC.

In Elgin, plows were pulled off the roads because traveling became "simply too dangerous," city officials said.

In response a number of Chicago area hotels have issued special rates for snowbound commuters.

For those who are lucky enough to make it home from work, Streets and Sanitation Chief Tom Burn asked Chicago residents to be mindful not to park on arterial streets.

"We will remove cars," he said.

The Streets and San team continues to have its entire fleet of snow-fighting trucks out working to keep the main streets open.

School kids won't have to worry about thier commute. Chicago Public Schools closed all of their locations for Wednesday.

Gov. Pat Quinn activated more than 500 Illinois National Guard troops to assist during the snow deluge.

Live Video: Weather Conditions in Chicago
Live Video: NBCChicago Weather Radar

 The Latest Updates on Blizzard 2011

Update 4:45 -- VIDEO: Hear from a driver who was stuck in his car on Lake Shore Drive for more than seven hours.

Update 4:30 a.m.
-- Add Will, McHenry counties in Illinois and Racine and Kenosha counties in Wisconsin as being officially closed to travel, per their respective sheriff departments.

Update 4:30 a.m. --
ComEd reports 80,000 customers are still without power, down from a high of 123,000.

- 52,000 in Chicago
- 2,400 in the northern suburbs
- 14,000 in the southern suburbs
- 2,400 out west

Update 4:05 a.m.
-- All roads in Western Kane County are impassable and closed for travel, according to Lt. Pat Gengler with the Kane County Sheriff's Office. 

Plows and tow trucks are not functioning.  Anyone who attempts to travel does so with little chance of immediate assistance should they become stuck, Gengler warns.

Update 3:45 a.m. --
State of emergency declared in Lake County, Ill.

Update 2:45 a.m.
-- Amtrak is starting to cancel Wednesday service to St. Louis, Milwaukee, Quincy, and Carbondale.  Travelers should check

Update 2:20 a.m. --
Civil Emergency:  All roads in Lake County, Ill., are closed to all traffic due to life-threatening conditions. 

Update 1:45 a.m. --
Chicago's Board of Elections says all early voting locations will be closed Wednesday.  Election officials say they expect voting to resume Thursday.

Update 1:30 a.m.
-- The American Red Cross has opened 10 shelters in the Chicago area to house stranded travelers and people displaced by Tuesday’s powerful blizzard.

The shelters are located in Des Plaines, New Lenox, Sauk Village, St. Charles, Chicago, Oak Lawn, and Lisle plus three locations are open in far south suburban Kankakee, according to a Red Cross release.

Shelters in Kankakee have been most active because a portion of Interstate 57 is closed in that area, according to the release.

Update 1:20 a.m. -- O’Hare International Airport saw 10.6 inches of snow between about 6 p.m. and midnight Wednesday and currently has a foot of snow on the ground as of 12:20 a.m., according to a National Weather Service snow depth report.

Midway International Airport, on the Southwest Side, was reporting 10.2 inches of snow on the ground as of about 10:45 p.m.

Other snow totals:

- 16" in Rockford
- 12" in Batavia
- 12" in Libertyville
- 9" at Valparaiso University

Update 1:15 a.m. -- Report:  The wife of a man stuck on Lake Shore Drive says a rescue bus is now stuck in the snow.  No official confirmation.

Update 1:10 a.m. -- Windows blown out of lobby of building along Lake Shore Drive:
Photo 1Photo 2Photo 3 (from @JohnnyTToxic)

Update 12:44 a.m.
-- Drivers are still stranded on a closed Lake Shore Drive...

Update 11:45 p.m.
-- Via Twitter and Facebook, Elgin City Manager Sean Stegall announces they're pulling plows off the road.  "It is simply too dangerous," he wrote.

Update 10:50 p.m. -- The Illinois Tollway says it has 183 snow plows out working to keep 286 miles of roadway clear of snow and ice.  In four hours, between 3:30 and 7:30 p.m., the Illinois Tollway and Illinois State Police reported nearly 40 crashes.

Update 10:20 p.m. -- ComEd reports the number of customers without power had grown to more than 123,000.  Power has been restored to more than 45,000 customers that had been affected, but roughly 78,000 are still in the dark.

The outages spread throughout the region:

- 46,000 in Chicago
- 9,300 in the northern suburbs
- 18,000 in the southern suburbs
- 4,600 out west

More than 100 utility crews are out working to repair downed power lines and damaged equipment, the utility said.

Update 10:00 p.m. -- Snow accumulation at O'Hare is about 4 inches and winds are from the northeast at 37 mph.  Gusts have reached 53 mph.

Some Metra trains are still running and trying to get people home, but delays as long as two hours persist due to switching problems and weather conditions.

On the CTA, the red, yellow and purple lines are experiencing some delays, but the other lines are running on time.  Some buses are also experiencing delays and/or have become stuck because of road conditions.

Update: 9:50 p.m. -- Evanston has closed Sheridan Road from the southern border of the city to Chicago Avenue due to drifing snow.

Update 9:45 p.m. -- The Cook County Jail reports intermittent issues with the facility's electricity.  Virtually all 11 buildings at the 96-acre complex are experiencing flickering lights and similar issues, said spokesman Steve Patterson.

Backup generators are providing some power and there have been no impact on operations, Patterson said.  The entire jail campus was put on lockdown at about 3 p.m. due to the storm.

Update 9:00 p.m -- Operations at both Midway and O'Hare airports are shut down due to dangerous blizzard conditions, but aviation officials say some flights could be up and running at Midway as soon as Wednesday afternoon.

Update 9:00 p.m.
-- Debris in the roads around Wrigley Field are portions of a structural panel above the press box, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Update 8:15 p.m. --
State Police are reporting that I-80 will soon be closed in the far south suburbs, from Morris west to Ottawa, because of "impassable" blizzard conditions.

The interstate will be closed as soon as the Illinois Dept. of Transportation can get the barricades up, said Joliet District State Police Sgt. Chris Paluch, and the road will remain closed all night.

"It’s terrible," Paluch said.  "There are too many crashes and too many vehicles in ditches. You can’t even get to the cars anymore."

Update 8:05 p.m.
-- Officials are in the process of closing Lake Shore Drive from 67th Street to Hollywood Avenue because of drifing and lake effect snow.

Update 7:55 p.m. --
Clark Street at Addison is closed because of a piece of debris in the road.  Officials aren't sure what the debris is or from where it came.

Another view posted to Twitter:

Update 7:15 p.m.
-- ComEd reports that nearly 27,500 customers are without electricity because of the storm:
- 14,000 in Chicago
- 6,000 in the northern suburbs
- 6,800 in the southern suburbs
- 635 out west

The utility said it has 100 crews in the field working to correct the outages.

Update 6:30 p.m. -- Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Ind., is closed.  A security guard there was turning away traffic.  The lights are off outside the casino on Indianapolis Blvd.

Update 3:30 p.m. -- Another 1,300 flights cancelled at O'Hare, bringing total to more than 2,300 since threat of storm began...

Update 2:30 p.m. -- High winds are being blamed for loosening a window on a building in the Loop...

Tuesday morning -- A salt truck overturned in Northwest Indiana...

Update 11:00 a.m. -- More than 1,100 flights at O'Hare canceled...

Update 10:25 a.m. -- Gov. Quinn calls in more than 500 Illinois National Guard troops to assist with snow deluge...

Monday -- City says it's prepared for massive storm... 

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