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In case you haven’t heard, Chicago was hit hard with snow this week

Posted on February 04, 2011

In case you haven’t heard, Chicago was hit hard with snow this week

By Bob Spoerl

#Snomg. #Snowpocalypse. #SnowtoriousBIG. These are some of the most popular Twitter hash tags people used in reference to the massive blizzard of 2011. Twitter users posted, in 140 characters or less, updates about their interaction with the storm. Some tweets were funny, some were depressing, others quirky. In the studios of WTTW 11, on the nightly news show “Chicago Tonight,” where I work during the day as an intern, we dubbed the coming storm “Snowmageddon 2011” in our Tuesday broadcast. Due to the weather, we did not have a Wednesday show.

The storm was bad. Perhaps not as bad as the Blizzard of ’67 – I don’t remember that storm. Apparently, bus drivers abandoned their buses and the city borrowed snow blowers from residents during that Civil Rights era snowstorm. But this Facebook generation storm – the one causing so many headaches this week – is considered the third worst blizzard of this city’s weathered history.  Chicago Public Schools called off classes for two days straight, an unfortunate but necessary move for a district that already has one of the shortest school periods in the country.

The Storm at the City Level

Thousands of residents faced the wrath of the blizzard indoors and without heat, electricity ousted by a relentless winter storm. This was true for Rogers Park residents on the 1500 blocks of Estes and Touhy and the 7100 block of Greenview, according to an e-mail from the Alderman’s office. Com Ed planned to restore electricity for these blacked-out residents by Wednesday night.
Cars were stuck on Lake Shore Drive (Chicago Tonight story about LSD) some 900 of them for nearly 12 hours. Ultimately, the city closed Lake Shore Drive during the most chaotic part of the storm and cleanup.  It’s now open for traffic but people stranded in the storm now need to relocate their cars. It’s messy and time consuming stuff that may last for days.

At least seven deaths in Chicagoland are contributed to complications from the massive snowstorm. One report had that number at 11. So far, only one of those deaths was within city limits; a man fell into Lake Michigan near Diversey Harbor, his body found Wednesday morning. It’s unclear why the man was walking around Tuesday night during the climax of the storm. (Click here to read NBC Chicago story)
This Chicago snowstorm is the first major one in a social networking society. In 1999, the city faced arduous winter weather, but this was in a pre- Facebook and Twitter era. Major media outlets, including NPR and RedEye, asked listeners and readers to send in pictures and share their blizzard stories. These and other media outlets understand the psychology of the modern urban person: more often than not, he or she wants to be a citizen journalist and become a part of the digital storytelling process.

Rogers Park Fights Back

Instead of sitting inside on the internet, some Rogers Park residents took to the streets to clear the snow. Jim Brusek, a longtime resident who lives east of Sheridan on Sherwin said his neighbors and him created an impromptu and informal clean-up crew.  Brusek survived the Blizzard of ’67 as well as the one in 1979.  He compared the spirit of the people during this blizzard to the one from 44 years ago.

“I’m seeing a resurgence of people getting involved. We made a party of it. We took a couple of cans of beer out with us,” Brusek said.

Brusek said his crew of neighbors cleared the street they live on, making it accessible for other neighbors. The group of magnificent seven snowplowed, shoveled and blew through 20 plus inches of snow. Brusek credited neighbor Andy Demma for being a soft-spoken yet Good Samaritan kind of neighbor.

“A majority of people do not know who Andrew Demma is, but every snowstorm – unsolicited – he makes sure his alley is plowed all the way to the lake,” Brusek said.

Brusek takes up a collection once a year to give to Andrew, nestled between the two halves of a ‘Thank You’ card. It’s the least he can do, he said, to repay Demma for all the time and hassle he save neighbors in squally winter weather.

Alderman Joe Moore, in his most recent e-mail, saluted independent neighborhood snow-removal efforts like the kind Brusek and Demma helped lead. owner Mike Glasser got in on the act too – he helped shovel snow from sidewalks, alleys and roads along with neighbors.

A Sudanese Native on the Blizzard

Peter Bul, who lives on Devon Avenue is originally from Sudan. Bul lived in a refugee camp in Kenya for several years before heading west to the United States. He is part of the Lost Boys and Girls of Sudan, forced out of their home in the late 1980s due to war.

“When I left Africa I knew I was coming to a place with different culture, weather and food,” Bul said.

But how different it would be is something he couldn’t quite predict.

“I haven’t seen anything like this in my life,” Bul said.

His life, as a fleeing child from his homeland, was marked with many obstacles none of us will ever have to overcome. He sees the United States, and Chicago, as a place he wants to call home. With one exception:

“I really think I could be in America for life but I could never get used to this weather,” Bul said. “To be honest with you, I haven’t got out since the snow started on Tuesday.”

That was Thursday at noon. Perhaps Bul has ventured outdoors since then to brave the foreign-feeling cold.

The Wrap-Up

Over 20 inches of snow fell in most Chicagoland spots. Antioch accumulated the most snow, 27 inches. It’s going to take more time and effort to clean up, especially alleyways and residential streets. City dwellers are encouraged to remain calm and collected and to take it easy on the streets. While Snomageddon 2011 has passed, its after-effects remind us of its power. Character verse Nature—- one of the themes writers like Jack London brought to life in fiction—- played out in real life this week in Chicago.

photo credit: oceandesetoiles

photo credit: deep blue skies

photo credit: SPedretti

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