The Heat Is Online

Worst Snowstorm In Two Decades Slams Into Chicago

Jan. 5, 1998 (Reuters)

By Andrew Stern

CHICAGO - Heavy snow blanketed much of the U.S. Midwest on Saturday, slamming Chicago with its worst storm in 20 years and creating hazardous travel conditions blamed for at least seven road deaths and the stranding of thousands of airline passengers.

Fierce winds made it difficult for snowplows to keep roads clear, and cots were set up at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport for grounded holiday-weekend travelers.

Only 10 percent of scheduled arriving and departing flights managed to get into or out of O'Hare, the nation's busiest airport, and major airlines cancelled all flights for the bulk of the afternoon and evening.

A band of snow covered parts of Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. Although the Dakotas escaped the brunt of the storm, they were in the grip of frigid temperatures.

Wind gusts of up to 60 mph (96 kph) in Chicago limited visibility to less than a mile (1.6 km) and made the temperature of 20 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 6 degrees Celsius) feel much colder. Chicago is the third most populous U.S. city, with about 2.7 million people.

Chicago received 16 inches (41 cm) of snow at O'Hare before the flakes tapered off, down from some forecasts for as much as 2 feet (60 cm). But the storm was still the worst in 20 years and the third worst in the more than a century that records have been kept.

A 23-inch (58-cm) snowfall paralysed the city in January 1967, and nearly 19 inches (48 cm) of snow were recorded in a 1979 storm.

"We ask you to avoid unnecessary travel, both for your safety and to allow our ploughs to do their work," Chicago Mayor Richard Daley said. "We ask people to be patient. This is a major storm, and the cleanup will take a while."

Among the seven reported traffic deaths was that of a motorist whose stalled vehicle was struck from behind by a truck on a highway near Racine, Wisconsin, triggering a multicar pileup, police said.

As the Midwest storm got under way on Friday, a 19-year-old motorist in central Missouri died when his car slid through a bridge railing and plunged into a creek. A 39-year-old woman died in Columbia, Missouri, when her car skidded into the path of a pickup truck.

Two people died in a highway accident in Nebraska on Friday, and two others were reported killed in Arkansas.

Almost 50,000 homes in Arkansas were still without power on Saturday night, down from the 100,000 residences that lost electricity during an ice storm on Friday night.

"We've made substantial progress in restoring service, but bad roads and in some cases lightning have made it difficult and even impossible for our crews to make repairs," said Jim Martindale, a service representative for Entergy (cq) Corp., the largest supplier of electricity in Arkansas.

Elsewhere, drifting snow made many roads impassable as the centre of the storm moved north into Michigan. The massive storm stretched from Hudson Bay in Canada down into the Gulf of Mexico.

"We're having trouble getting the roads clear. People are venturing out and ending up in ditches," said Larry Trueblood of the Indiana State Highway Patrol. A 90-mile (145-km) stretch of Interstate 65 was closed in northern Indiana.

Tornado warnings were issued for states along the Gulf of Mexico, where powerful thunderstorms spawned twisters.

A weaker secondary storm forming over the Middle Atlantic States near Washington, D.C., moved northeast on Saturday, depositing rain or freezing rain along the East Coast.

Chicago authorities deployed the city's available fleet of 700 snowplows and salt-carrying trucks but had to shut down Lake Shore Drive, a key artery that runs alongside Lake Michigan. Drifting snow hampered road-clearing operations.

TWA cancelled all its flights out of St. Louis' Lambert Field. United Airlines, American Airlines and Delta Airlines cancelled all their flights out of Chicago's O'Hare after midafternoon. Detroit's Metro Airport was also virtually shut down.

United waived fees charged for changing reservations and suggested that travelers postpone trips out of O'Hare until Tuesday.

Chicago Aviation Commissioner Mary Rose Loney said 240,000 passengers were expected to pass through O'Hare on Sunday, not including would-be passengers stranded by Saturday's storm. But forecasts for blowing and drifting snow could result in more cancellations, she said.

Department spokesman Dennis Culloton said he anticipated that airline schedules would not be back to normal until Monday.

Chicago's public transportation system and commuter rail lines were running slowly, and local travelers endured delays. A small army of utility workers restored power to thousands of people who had temporarily lost electricity.

Chicago residents emptied grocery stores of such basics as milk and bread, and a television station reported that a hardware store had sold 100 snow blowers in one day.

A spokesman for a local blood bank said there was concern about blood supplies because donors could not get to its facilities.

Several public events across the region, such as college basketball games and theatre performances, were cancelled. Many public libraries and churches closed.

Other elements of outdoor life kept going, however, including some pizza deliveries. And many dog walkers braved the cold.

(C) Reuters Limited 1999.

Winter tightens its grip

The Boston Globe January 6, 1999

CHICAGO - Winter froze much of the nation yesterday, bringing a record cold reading of 36 degrees below zero to Illinois, as much of the state was still digging out from a near-record snowstorm. In upstate New York, more than a foot of new snow fell, and frigid cold went all the way south to the Gulf Coast.

Many did not have the luxury of hiding from subzero temperatures.

Being outside in downtown Milwaukee, where it was minus 12 degrees yesterday morning, was ''painfully cold, like you got smacked,'' said a construction worker, Pat Provo, bundled in layers of clothing.

The death toll from the icy weather climbed to 91. Many lost their lives in traffic crashes caused by slick roads.

A combination of snow and cold air descending from Canada pushed the mercury down to minus 36 degrees in the central Illinois town of Congerville, edging the state's old record, set in 1930 and tied in 1996, by a single degree.

Around Chicago, the reading was 12 below zero along the lakefront and 27 below in the western suburbs. Springfield recorded 21 below, and Moline hit 26 below. Champaign matched its record at 26 below, while Peoria saw temperatures of 19 below zero, giving Bradley University freshman and Zimbabwe native Thando Dzowa a lesson in weathering Midwest winters.

''It's shocking,'' Dzowa said of the snow. ''I thought it was pretty until I stepped outside and almost froze.''

Slick roads kept schools closed in many states, power was out in spots, and frozen plumbing was a problem across a wide area. ''When those pipes thaw and start shooting water in the house, I'll wish I had six more service vans,'' said Mann Stone of Mann's Plumbing in Knoxville, Tenn.

In upstate New York, many parts of which had been buried by earlier lake-effect snowfall, a band of new snow dumped as many as 16 more inches in West Seneca and Lancaster, eastern suburbs of Buffalo.

Esther Sinicki, 69, was behind her snowblower for a third straight day, but could barely keep up as the snow piled around her at a rate of 2 inches an hour. A foot had accumulated in her West Seneca driveway by early afternoon, doubling her two-day total.

''We're paying for November and December,'' she said of the unusually mild days of late fall.

In southern states, residents unused to icy conditions struggled to adjust.

In Tennessee, the lows were in single digits, and homeless men died of exposure in Nashville and Memphis, authorities said. In South Carolina, utility crews went from house to house to restore power after a weekend ice storm.

Single-digit temperature readings were reported, and highs in the teens and low 20s were common. People without running water had to do without.

Near the Gulf Coast, the predawn temperature dropped to 18 degrees in Mobile, Ala., breaking a 75-year record of 19. The Alabama community of Pinson, just north of Birmingham, was the coldest place in the state, dipping to 7 degrees overnight.

This story ran on page A03 of the Boston Globe on 01/06/99.

© Copyright 1998 Globe Newspaper Company.

Winter Tightens Its Grip on East
The New York Times January 6, 1999
By The Associated Press

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- Winter kept up its punishment of the Midwest and Great Lakes region today, with even more snow falling on areas that had been pummeled with 2 feet since the weekend.

Heavy snow fell today in parts of Michigan, adding to the 26 inches that had already fallen. A lake-effect storm that shut down Buffalo and surrounding towns Monday made a second pass Tuesday, dropping an additional 16 inches of snow.

Snow even fell as far south as the Tennessee Valley, with an inch accumulating in northern Alabama.

And where it wasn't snowy, it was cold -- ``painfully cold, like you got smacked,'' said construction worker Pat Provo, red-faced and bundled in layers of clothing at a construction site in downtown Milwaukee.

``Nobody wants to work in it, but you've got to do it,'' he said.

The winter weather had claimed at least 102 lives since this weekend when a huge storm rolled from the Plains across the Midwest into Canada.

``I'm bundling up big time. I'm kind of afraid to go out in the snow because I'm afraid I'll get stuck,'' said Amy Clark, 18, a homeless woman who stays at Next Door shelter in Kalamazoo, Mich.

Detroit schools were closed again today, extending winter vacation for 180,000 students. Other school closures were scattered across the East, with more than half of Tennessee's county school systems closed today because of snow, freezing rain, sleet and temperatures as low as 10 at Bristol.

The bitter cold wave that dropped Tuesday's temperatures in the Midwest to as low as 36 below zero at Congerville, Ill., was retreating. Today's low at Chicago was 5 above zero, compared to Tuesday's low of 12 below.

But temperatures in the Southeast still hit a few record lows today, including 18 at Myrtle Beach, S.C., and 13 at Greensboro, N.C.

In South Carolina, utility workers had finally restored service to everyone who lost power during the weekend storm, but the cold had left other problems.

``There are no companies that will go out and defrost pipes. It doesn't happen here,'' said Mandy Richburg of Gene Love Plumbing Service in West Columbia, S.C.

Detroit Metropolitan Airport was back to full operations today and most of the thousands of travelers stall by flight cancellations during the weekend storm had finally reached their destinations.

However, because of the huge backlog, many of those travelers were without their luggage. Northwest Airlines flew in 30 extra workers from across the nation to sort 5,000 pieces of luggage in a warehouse, spokeswoman Andrea Newman said. And she said the airline had only four cancellations today at Detroit, and none was weather-related.

Northern Ohio had lows in the teens today, compared with a reading of 8 below zero Tuesday at Mansfield, and highs in the 30s were forecast.

Cleveland office worker Amy Thomas chose to ride the bus instead of driving Tuesday. But she paid the price as she waited on a downtown corner; the city's high Tuesday was just 8 degrees.

``I've been out here 10 minutes,'' she said. ``But it feels like an hour.''

Sitting near the hot wood stove in her family's farmhouse in Congerville, Ill. -- population 397, temperature of 36 below zero -- Rebecca Adams wanted no part of the outdoors.

``We usually go out to play in the snow a little bit,'' said Adams, 15. ``But it was really, really cold this morning.''

That temperature gave Congerville the title for Illinois' coldest day on record, one degree below the previous mark set in 1930. The National Weather Service today disavowed a report that Savanna, in northwest Illinois, had the all-time record at 37 below; the reading was not taken by an official observer using certified equipment, spokesman Bob Collins said.

Winter storms wreak havoc

Freezing rain and snow close schools, airports, collapse roofs

MSNBC NEWS SERVICES (Jan. 15, 1998) (AP)

Jan. 15 — Snow fell again early Friday across the Northeast, where storm after storm has collapsed roofs, stranded scores of vehicles on New England highways and grounded hundreds of flights.

Snow from Ohio to Massachusetts closed schools, canceled flights and created white-knuckle driving on Thursday. Farther south, freezing rain and sleet glazed roads from the Ohio Valley to the East Coast.

In the Buffalo, N.Y., area, more than 50 inches of snowfall since Jan. 1 has brought down barns, churches and other buildings.

"These roads are all horrendous," said Karl Sutton, head of emergency services for Hancock County, W.Va. "My guys are working 12 hours a day, seven days a week, and they’re dying. They’re just beat."

Three people were killed early Friday when their car swerved on ice and snow and smashed into a tractor-trailer near Clarksburg, W.Va., said Sgt. Robert Crawford of Harrison County Bureau of Emergency Services.

More than 600 flights were canceled Thursday at the three major airports serving New York City, where up to 3 inches of snow fell into this morning. President Clinton’s trip to New York was delayed until Friday.

More snow and freezing rain were expected Friday across New England and upstate New York, with heavy accumulations possible in northern Maine and New

Hampshire. But things are supposed to improve.

Unseasonably warm temperatures have been forecast for much of the region by Saturday. That would be welcome news in places like Allagash, Maine, which recorded the lowest temperature ever for the state early Thursday — 55 degrees below zero.

A thaw would also help in parts of Missouri, where some students haven’t been in school since December because of snow and ice. Schools in eastern Missouri’s St. Francois County were closed again Friday — the 10th straight day and 24th overall since Dec. 22.

Parking lots, sidewalks and driveways remain dangerously slick in St. Louis, where public schools have been closed six times since Jan 1. Things even froze over in Hell, Mich., an unincorporated village about 60 miles west of Detroit, where it was near zero Thursday. And in Commerce Township, northwest of Detroit, a 40- to 50-foot section of roof crashed onto the lanes at the Wonderland Lanes bowling alley Wednesday.

The same problem has hit the Buffalo, N.Y., area, where more than 50 inches of snowfall since Jan. 1 has brought down barns, churches and other buildings. "The whole thing fell in like an accordion," Charles Spencer Jr. said of a roof in one room of his home.

"Anybody who was out in that room would have been dead."

About 135 state prison inmates were out with shovels uncovering fire hydrants and sewer receptacles in downtown Buffalo, and Gov. George Pataki declared a

state of emergency so several counties would be eligible for state assistance.

Near Boston, the first big storm of the year dumped more than a foot of snow south of the city, snarling the evening rush hour. Dozens of drivers ditched their vehicles.

"It’s probably one of the worst commutes since the Blizzard of ’78," said state police Sgt. Shawn Lydon, referring to the storm that paralyzed the area.

"Basically because of the heavy traffic, the cars that are breaking down, the amount of time it takes to commute — four, five, six hours — that’s just extraordinary."

© 1999 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.