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Black ice and freezing rain disrupt Chicago area

Mae Carroll of LaGrange Park struggles to get her car out of the driveway due to the ice and snow that hit Chicago. Weather advisories warned drivers to be cautious. Credit: Kaitlin Kimont, Dominican Star.

By: Angela Romano, Co-Editor-in-Chief

 

Dangerous driving conditions caused about 100 crashes across the city of Chicago and neighboring suburbs on the evening of Feb. 21.

Phil Cotter, interim director of Public Works for River Forest, said the temperature dropped into the lower and middle 20s with a bursting wind from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Water from rain and melted snow froze rapidly, he said.

“Essentially, what we had was a flash freeze of several roadways within a short period of time,” he said.

Cotter said he had crews out all day salting the streets. As soon as the rain stopped, the temperature dropped dramatically causing extreme driving conditions. He blamed the prevalence of ice on the dramatic temperature fluctuation.

“We work well with the River Forest Police Department to know what areas are worse than others,” Cotter said. “I luckily heard about all the accidents happening around Chicago on the radio and we got as many trucks out as we could.”

Gregory Weiss, interim chief of the River Forest Police Department, said they were fortunate to have no reported accidents in River Forest Monday night into Tuesday.

“Cotter and his crew were actively out salting that evening so that may have had an impact on the lack of accidents,” Weiss said.

Other areas weren’t as lucky. Icy roads were responsible for about 100 accidents that night on Chicago area roadways, Illinois police said.

“Shortly before 9 p.m., we put orders out for a full group of trucks and plows and salt-spreading equipment in the north, northwest and west suburbs with half a group in the south and southwest suburbs,” Guy Tridgell, an IDOT spokesperson, said in a statement to the local media.

Illinois State Police sent out an advisory to warn drivers to take extreme caution on the roads. They said drivers should avoid any sudden braking or quick lane changes.

 

Senior Brett Frangella was heading westbound on I-290 from Dominican after night class when he realized the peril of the situation.

“I saw the wreckage from 10 different accidents, including one that was fatal,” Frangella said. “It was the most unsafe roads I’ve ever driven on. There were cars in ditches; I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Dan Bulow, director of buildings and grounds at Dominican, said his crew has been doing everything they can to keep the Dominican community safe from hazardous conditions.

“Maintenance has spent a lot of time and has dumped more salt this year than any of the past 10 years,” Bulow said. “Our staff has put in many hours of overtime starting as early as 4 a.m. or has stayed late into the night trying to keep up for the safety of all on campus. We have put salt containers near main entrances to use if people notice any icy spots.”

Foul weather is expected to continue. The National Weather Service’s winter weather advisory predicted 3 to 5 inches of snow Feb. 25 and said more snow, rain and hail would accumulate throughout the next few weeks.

They predict the snow that should fall in Chicago will break the February snowfall record of 27.8 inches set 115 years ago in 1896. So far, exactly 28 inches have been recorded, says The National Weather Service.

With more snow and ice expected, many Dominican students are ready for winter to be over.

“I’m suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder,” senior Jess Gallagher said. “The only cure is spring break in Florida.”

Bulow agrees. “It has been a wicked winter so far with all of the ice and snow,” he said. “Not only have we been dumped on, but these small accumulations of snow what seems like every other day, then turning to ice has presented problems for everyone.”

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