We Missed the Top Ten

For once the weather guys called it right, and we got the snow they predicted. A couple of days before the governor gave a warning that we should all be prepared for a possible long stay indoors. Of course no one believed him, and we went our merry way as we saw fit. Last Monday evening I went to my Lions Club board meeting in town and there was not a flake of snow anywhere. I returned two hours later and still there was no snow. Oh well they got it wrong again. The following morning I awoke and looked out the bedroom window to see a deep layer of snow covering everything in the yard. I dressed and went to my office. The view from the front of the house was not different. I estimated the snow to be around ten inches deep.

After a leisurely breakfast, (actually when you are retired every breakfast is leisurely, and often extending into lunch) I dressed into my snow shoveling layers and raised the garage door to go to work. I underestimated the depth of the snow, it was easily fourteen inches deep. It tapered upward toward the street, and of course the last six feet of my driveway was under a special Village of Frankfort add-on of heavy compacted street-snow thrown by the passing plow. I never understood the mentality of the Village fathers being so insisting on clearing the streets but leaving the driveways totally impassable. Many a heart has been stressed while shoveling the entrance to the street. For those who didn’t take the trouble to stress their hearts shoveling, but instead tried to drive through, stressed their hearts trying to push, pull, rock, or dig a stuck car out.

Usually when moving snow about either by hand, or by machine I recall the early days in my life when I drove a Volkswagen bug and had to park on the parkway in front of our apartment on 87th street in Chicago. The bug was a joy to drive in the snow. With the engine in the back it had fair traction, but lousy steering with little to no weight on the front wheels. Many times I had to power my way through the pile left by the CTA plows just to park. In doing so, the little car lifted up so its wheels were off the ground and it was stuck on a layer of freshly compacted snow with wheels spinning freely. That’s when the real work began. I had to shovel the barrier left by the plow, and also the underside of the bug to get the wheels back to earth. The sad part of all this is that following day another citizen of our world had taken my shoveled space, and I would have to do it again. Come to think of it I did a lot of snow shoveling in my day.

The worst shoveling took place in 1967 when Chicago was hit with twenty-three inches of snow in a twenty-four hour period. Lady Luck was by my side when that happened. It was a Thursday morning and the snow fell heavy. I was living in my first house by then, and had a long driveway next to the house leading to the garage. When it was time to leave for work there was a drift running down the length of the drive peaking at three feet right in front of the door. I had to get rid of that drift before I could back out or I’ll be stuck for sure. I started shoveling and an hour later decided it was futile. I called work and told them I was snowed in. I really thought it would stop and then I’d clear it. It continued to snow, and snow, and snow. By the afternoon there was at least twelve inches of snow everywhere. Needless to say, I never left for work that day. It continued to snow through the day, and the night. By the next morning the snow drift on my drive was five feet high, and extended sixty feet to the front of the house.

The news carried story after story of people making heroic efforts to get home. Many did not. Several of my neighbors abandoned the car and slept at a good samaritan’s house some where along the way. One guy didn’t make it home for a week.

I remember very explicitly was how quiet the world was during the days when the snow stopped everything. Luckily our grocery store was only a few blocks away and we were able to walk down the middle of the streets to get there. There was very little left on the shelves, but it was comforting to know that it was close by.

By Monday, the streets were cleared enough to go back to work. The drive was strange because I was weaving in and out on a clear path though snowed-in abandoned cars. On the next Saturday we formed a team of neighbors to drive down to the outer drive near downtown Chicago to retrieve Kevin’s car. There were six of us armed with snow shovels and some chains. Kevin directed us to where he left the Ford. It was not there because the Fireman had yanked all cars from the road way to make a path and shoved them off to the side. We found Kevin’s green Ford under a pile of snow with only a few places showing the color. The sIx of us dug the Ford out in short time, and learned that his front bumper was hanging. They used a chain around the bumper to tow it out of the way. Once free, Kevin got the car started and rolling with five of us pushing. We split three in each car, and followed each other home. I remember what a monumental task it was to get the Outer Drive flowing again. The number of cars, trucks, and busses stuck and abandoned in place had to number in the thousands.

Chicago’s Ten Biggest Snowstorms

1.23.0 inches on January 26-27, 1967
2.21.6 inches on January 1-3, 1999
3.21.2 inches on January 31-February 2, 2011
4.20.3 inches on January 12-14, 1979
5.19.3 inches on January 31-February 2, 2015
6.19.2 inches on March 25-26, 1930
7.16.2 inches on March 7-8, 1931
8.14.9 inches on January 30, 1939
9.14.9 inches on January 6-7, 1918
10.14.8 inches on December 17-19, 1929

Our puny little storm this week only dropped about fourteen inches which doesn’t even make the top ten.

2 Responses

  1. Wow! Was talking to a friend today whose son is in Toronto and niece in Chicago. He was saying they (the kids) were talking in terms of snow piled up 8 feet high.

    • Snow piles are a common sight in parking lots that have been cleared for customer convenience.

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