Winter Hat Trick: First Cold, Then Ice, Now Snow

Bitter cold blamed for accidents, deaths

It's not even officially winter yet. The winter soltice will be Sunday, Dec. 21, but conditions are such that Illinois residents are in full winter warrior mode.

The constant snowfall throughout the day left the tollways in gridlock Tuesday, with travel times as long as 4 hours on the inbound Eisenhower. Leaving downtown was just as bad.  At 5:30 p.m., it was taking 30 minutes to go from Grand Avenue to Chicago Avenue on northbound Lake Shore Drive. [Click for latest travel times]

"You're better to just stay where you are," NBC Chicago's Mike Lorber said.

Many schools have canceled evening activities.  [Click for latest school closings.]

Streets & Sanitation's plows hit the streets around 3 p.m.  The city has said it's trying to cut back on salt use, and today's snow should allow them to do it.  The heavy flakes are "plowable," Streets & San officials said, and they plan to use less salt than for more icy events.

At 9 p.m., Chicago's full main snow fighting fleet of 274 trucks was out plowing and salting the city's main route system. One the snow system leaves the area and the main roads are in good shape, attention will be turned to the 3,300 mile network of side streets.

Delays aren't only on the roads.  At 4:30 p.m., Midway had a 1 hour delay with a few flight cancellations, while O'Hare had more than 200 cancellations with a 30 to 60 minute average delay, according to Karen Pride with the Chicago Department of Aviation.

Forecasters predict up to 5 inches of snow to fall before the storm ends late Tuesday night.

Less snow is expected in the Chicago area, with about 2 to 3 inches more likely.

Forecasters at the National Weather Service say temperatures will stay at the bitterly low depths seen Monday, the coldest day of the season so far.

The agency says the freezing temperatures will create icy surfaces on untreated roads. Visibility will be limited to one mile.

The low temperatures have caused accidents throughout the state.

A junior high school cafeteria worker was found frozen in her backyard in Joliet. A co-worker went looking for the 66-year-old woman when she didn't show up for work. Police say the woman went outside Sunday night and fell to the ground for unknown reasons, then froze to death.

In Belvidere, near Rockford, a 44-year-old woman who pulled to the side of road to scrape the ice off her car was struck by a dark-colored van, police say. The driver of the van didn't stop.

Crystal Meier suffered head and leg injuries but managed to drive to the home of a relative. She is listed in fair condition at a Rockford hospital.

In suburban Elgin, police say a St. Charles woman was arrested after she left her 20-month-old child alone in a van while temperatures dipped to the low teens and she shopped in a store.

The van was turned off while the boy sat inside it for about 20 minutes, authorities say. Pamela J. Weberski, 43, was charged with endangering the life of a child. The boy wasn't injured.


Copyright AP - Associated Press
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