Few Problems Reported During Snowy Wednesday Morning Commute

Mother Nature's poor timing dumps about 3 inches of snow during morning rush

It appeared late Wednesday morning that most commuters heeded advice to pack their patience and allow for extra time during Mother Nature's latest blast of winter weather.

Despite falling and drifting snow and low temperatures, relatively few incidents were reported on roadways in the Chicago metro area.

Snow began falling at about 3 a.m. Forecasters had predicted accumulation ranging between 2 and 4 inches. About 3 inches ended up falling, particularly in areas south of Interstate 80.

Chicago's Department of Streets & Sanitation deployed more than 250 plows in advance of the snowfall and through the morning rush. By 9:30 a.m., crews had moved their attention from the main thoroughfares and Lake Shore Drive to less-traveled residential streets.

Officials with the Illinois Tollway deployed their full fleet of 182 snow plows onto the 286-mile system.

It had been feared that the snowfall and plunging temperatures would create conditions ripe for delays, spinouts and crashes.

"The problem that people are going to have in the morning is that not only are the roads going to be wet and slushy, but cold going to add different element as well," AAA spokeswoman Beth Mosher said Tuesday, well before the flakes fell.

Road salt is most effective with temperatures of roughly 20 degrees and above. With temperatures below that, officials in Chicago used a mixture of sugar beet byproducts and liquid salt brine to make the salt work more effectively.

"It is like the vegetable, the beet, and is some other components as well, and it helps us break down the ice and cold, actually helps us to prevent ice," explained department spokesman Charles Williams.

The city has more than 280 snow removal vehicles and more than 285,000 tons of salt stationed at locations throughout the city.

Illinois Department of Transportation officials employed another technique for keeping roads clear in the less-than-ideal conditions.

"We typically use your basic salt, but in really frigid temperatures ... we will add calcium chloride, which seems to be more effective in those cold temperatures," IDOT spokeswoman Jae Miller said.

Officials said that even if you have an SUV or four-wheel drive vehicle, it's important to take it slow during winter weather.

"Year after year, they think their car has certain abilities, but they just don't," Mosher said.

Rail officials with Metra and the Chicago Transit Authority started preparing Tuesday for the potentially hair-raising commute.

"We have heaters near critical switches to keep them warm and operational and prevent ice buildup, but some of them can be extinguished by high winds so our personnel have to watch for that," said spokesman Michael Gillis. "Of course if there is any accumulation of snow we will have people in the field to shovel and salt platforms, and we will be working to keep our yards clear so there are no problems getting trains in and out."

Disruptions were minimal at Chicago's two airports.

Weather is a shared experience, so help us adequately cover this week's winter weather. When the weather turns extreme in your area, post an update to social media using the hashtag #ChiWX to let us know where you are and what you're experiencing. We'll be watching!

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