Snowmageddon 2011: Chicagoans can handle a little (or a lot of) snow

Yesterday, I was listening to the doomsday forecasts with everyone freaking out!

I was laughing. I’ve lived in Chicago for more than a decade and, other than four years of college, in the Chicago area my entire life. Snow? No problem. If anything, it’s fun! We are Chicagoans. We can handle a little snow.

However, dutifully, I left my downtown office at 3:15pm. I had to run a quick errand which because of a line of people took about 20 minutes. Then I drove my car out onto Lake Shore Drive. That’s when the wind at my back, “no problem!” attitude changed. I felt a pang of…. fear.

I was on Lake Shore Drive from about 3:45pm to 5:15pm- from Oak Street to Foster. Much of that time was spent between Oak Street and Belmont. I presume the Drive was much more passable when I was on it than it was in the evening. At 4:00pm, I had a bit of fear pulsing through my veins. Would my car (non-four wheel drive) get through? Visibility was roughly 20 feet. The wind off Lake Michigan was blowing snow all over the place. It was frightening.

That said, my car made it home safely. My wife and I took our babysitter home in my wife’s four wheel drive truck. On the morning of my first snow day in roughly 25 years, I got to hear stories of Chicagoans helping each other. Stranded travelers sharing food and water with each other on Lake Shore Drive. No stories of panic- if anything it was festive. The “whatcha gonna do?” attitude was out and in force. My favorite story was of the woman living near Lake Shore Drive, baking cookies, taking the cookies out into the storm, walking across southbound traffic, climbing the median between the north and southbound lanes and walking from car to car offering cookies to hungry, stranded travelers. True story.

Only in Chicago.

This isn’t D.C. This isn’t New York. This is Chicago- we can handle a blizzard. Ask a tourist- the Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore knows.



I was amazed that by 3:00pm, the sidewalks on in my neighborhood were completely clear. The entire neighborhood was out, clearing snow, freeing cars, chatting each other up. I had a great conversation with a woman, 22 weeks pregnant, who was just out for a walk. She was able to do that at 22 weeks because the sidewalks were clear.

After clearing my wife’s truck, I saw my neighbors tackling the alley; I jumped in and joined. The snow was at least 30 inches deep. But we had a half a dozen people out there, working diligently.  The alley behind my home is clear– now if the city can get to the side streets, we’ll be able to use our cars.   

There are stories like this on every block.

The following are a couple more stories from Chicago Breaking News:

Others relied on sheer numbers. On the South Side, about 35 neighbors banded together to shovel out the 9900 block of South Maplewood Avenue. Catching sight of the group, roadside assistance driver Ellis White mused that such group efforts say something good about the local character.

“I think it’s the whole Chicago sensibility,” he said.

Residents of the high-rise at 1440 Lake Shore Drive trekked into the blizzard to deliver water, snacks, blankets and towels to marooned drivers. Conor Dempsey, 27, and his friends ended their poker party to march through the snow with backpacks filled with supplies.

Meanwhile, others brought people back to the building, where they were met by doorman Tyrone Williams. He offered them hot coffee and showed them to the lobby bathrooms.

One of those rescued was a woman, four months into a high-risk pregnancy, who had been stranded in a car with her brother. Debbie Davis, 52, invited the two to stay overnight in a condominium she owns, and the next morning, prepared them a hot breakfast and flagged down cars until she found a driver willing to take them to the Red Line.

“At one point, I thought, ‘I’ve got two complete strangers sleeping next door,’ but that’s just what you do,” Davis said. “Sometimes you just have to trust people.”

Filed under: Chicagoist

Tags: Chicago Blizzard 2011

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