WBEZ | winter http://www.wbez.org/tags/winter Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en How much road salt ends up in Lake Michigan? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/how-much-road-salt-ends-lake-michigan-109814 <p><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: This episode of the Curiuos City podcast includes an audio story about road salt. It begins 5 minutes, 50 seconds into the program. (Subscribe via <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/curious-city/id568409161" target="_blank">iTunes </a>or <a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/CuriousCityPodcast" target="_blank">Feedburner</a>!)</em></p><p>Aaron Stigger is a graphic and web designer born and raised in Oak Park. He caught Curious City&rsquo;s attention with <a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org/questions/1522" target="_blank">this question</a>:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em><font><font>How does all the winter salt runoff affect Lake Michigan&#39;s water?</font></font></em></p><p><font><font>But he </font></font><em><font><font>really </font></font></em><font><font>piqued our interest after telling us the backstory.</font></font></p><p><font><font>&ldquo;On my way to work everyday I pass by this gi-normous salt pile, which is kind of plopped down on some dirt and some broken-up cement,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;That kind of got me thinking: Well, if it&rsquo;s seeping into the ground under this big, uncovered pile, what is it doing, all the salt we distribute all around the city?&rdquo;</font></font></p><p><a href="https://maps.google.com/maps?ll=41.954739%2C-87.79664800000002&amp;cbp=%2C65.45%2C%2C0%2C9.139999&amp;layer=c&amp;panoid=S-PkH0iF7NxMblex4A7Wog&amp;spn=0.18000000000000152%2C0.30000000000001953&amp;output=classic&amp;cbll=41.954739%2C-87.796648" target="_blank"><font><font>The particular mound of salt</font></font></a><font><font> that Aaron saw is in Dunning, a neighborhood on the city&rsquo;s Northwest Side. That mound&#39;s got company: Chicago stores 19 piles of salt across the city. And that&rsquo;s not counting many more spread across the suburbs and Northwest Indiana.</font></font></p><p><font><font>But is there really a wall of brine heading to the lake and, if so, should we be worried? We found out that, at least according to a few environmental standards, Lake Michigan is actually in much better shape than Stigger expected. But another waterway may have earned his concern.</font></font></p><p><strong><font><font>Just how much salt are we talking about, anyway?</font></font></strong></p><p><font><font>Before we get to specifics on any effects on Lake Michigan, let&rsquo;s put the amounts of road salt we use into perspective, at least when it comes to Chicago.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Since November 2009, the city has spread an average of 215,456</font></font>&nbsp;tons of salt to melt snow and ice each year, according to figures provided by The Department of Streets &amp; Sanitation:<a name="chart"></a></p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="300" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" scrolling="no" src="http://cf.datawrapper.de/CbhQh/2/" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="350"></iframe></div><p><font><font>That&rsquo;s counting this winter,&nbsp;</font></font><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/just-how-bad-chicago-winter-109637" target="_blank"><font><font>which has been particularly brutal</font></font></a><font><font>. As of February 28, the city already dumped more than 370,000 tons of salt on city streets &mdash; a solid 42 percent more than the next heaviest use in the previous five years.</font></font></p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/aaron%20stigger%27s%20salt%20pile.jpg" style="height: 304px; width: 525px; margin: 5px;" title="The Chicago salt pile that Oak Parker Aaron Stigger sees on his way to work. (Photo courtesy of Aaron Stigger)" /></div><p><font><font>It&rsquo;s not just a problem in Chicago. Humans move a lot of salt. A 2004 study estimated that we mobilize more than 140 teragrams &mdash; that&rsquo;s 140 billion kilograms &mdash; of chlorides every year.</font></font></p><p style="text-align: center;"><font><font><strong>Video: </strong><a href="#video">Just how big are these salt piles</a>?</font></font></p><p><strong><font><font>Salt&rsquo;s destination: our streams and rivers</font></font></strong></p><p><font><font>So, with some of these figures in mind, let&rsquo;s consider the effects.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Aaron Stigger&rsquo;s &ldquo;aha moment&rdquo; came about when he saw one of the city&rsquo;s salt piles while it was uncovered. It&rsquo;s a reasonable concern, given that researchers from the University of Rhode Island </font></font><a href="http://www.uri.edu/ce/wq/ww/Publications/Chlorides.pdf" target="_blank"><font><font>estimate uncovered salt piles lost about 20 percent</font></font></a><font><font> of their salt each year. Much of it ends up in nearby waterways.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Most piles are covered during the off-season, however, so salt used for deicing is the main source of urban chloride pollution. Chemists know salt as NaCl, or sodium chloride, which breaks down in water. Hence there are pollution measurements and standards for &ldquo;chlorides,&rdquo; not &ldquo;salt.&rdquo;</font></font></p><p><font><font>But where&rsquo;s this runoff headed? The hydrological lay of the land is such that most salt-laden runoff in Chicago ends up in the Chicago River and other inland waterways &mdash; not Lake Michigan.</font></font></p><p><font><font>The principal reason is that </font></font><a href="http://chicagopublicradio.org/story/should-we-reverse-chicago-river-again-95661" target="_blank"><font><font>the city reversed the flow of the river more than 100 years ago</font></font></a><font><font>, so most of our runoff ends up in the waterways that feed into the Illinois River, which flows into the Mississippi and eventually the Gulf of Mexico.</font></font><a href="http://www.isws.illinois.edu/pubdoc/B/ISWSB-74.pdf" target="_blank"><font><font> A 2010 study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found</font></font></a><font><font> road salt runoff and treated wastewater from the Chicago region are the dominant sources of chlorides in the navigable sections of the Illinois River, and two major tributaries in the Chicago region. The study says that number has risen steadily since about 1960.</font></font></p><p><font><font>&ldquo;The lake doesn&rsquo;t receive very much input from stormwater from the city of Chicago,&rdquo; says Scott Twait, who works in IEPA&rsquo;s Water Quality Standards division. &ldquo;However with all the salting, all the road salt enters into the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, and the Cal-Sag channel, and flows downstream to the Des Plaines River. And collecting all the runoff, the chloride levels can spike in those areas and get quite high.&rdquo;</font></font></p><p><font><font>In high concentrations, chlorides can be toxic to aquatic life. But it&rsquo;s hard to tell how many times salt runoff from Chicago has caused toxic levels of chlorides in inland waterways, because the Illinois Pollution Control Board doesn&rsquo;t classify those waters as &ldquo;General Use&rdquo; waterways. Those waters are subject to Illinois&rsquo; 500 mg/L water quality standard. Instead, IEPA regulates &ldquo;total dissolved solids&rdquo; in Chicago-area waterways, lumping together chlorides, sulfates and other chemicals for a single reading. Chloride levels have spiked above 1000 mg/L in some inland waterways &mdash; twice IEPA&rsquo;s standard for most of the state.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Chicago-area waterways are the only ones in the state that aren&rsquo;t regulated by General Use standards. As Twait explained, that&rsquo;s because they were so polluted when the standards were set that they earned their own benchmarks. (You can see IEPA&rsquo;s </font></font><a href="http://www.epa.state.il.us/water/tmdl/303d-list.html" target="_blank"><font><font>full list of impaired Illinois waterways here</font></font></a><font><font>.)</font></font></p><p><font><font><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Aaron%20Stigger%20by%20Kurt%20Gerber.jpg" style="margin: 5px; float: left; height: 220px; width: 220px;" title="Aaron Stigger asked Curious City about road salt runoff. (Photo courtesy of Aaron Stigger)" />&ldquo;Back in the 70s these were the only waters that were kind of beyond repair, as to their thinking back in the 70s, so they got kind of special standards&rdquo; Twait says. &ldquo;They really had no hope for them in the future.&rdquo;</font></font></p><p><font><font>But those waters are much cleaner now. The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, which handles and treats the region&rsquo;s combined runoff and sewer water, has improved its filtration methods. MWRD Spokeswoman Allison Fore &nbsp;says they&rsquo;ve adopted best practices suggested by the DuPage/Salt Creek Work Group for managing their roadways and facilities.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Twait says EPA is looking to bring Chicago-area waterways in line with the rest of the state&rsquo;s rivers and streams. If they update the water quality standards, he says, &ldquo;one of the things we know is that we&rsquo;ll have chloride issues in the winter time.&rdquo;</font></font></p><p><font><font>Regulators would come up with some kind of limit for chloride in Chicago-area rivers. That could make cities think twice before spreading so much road salt. It&rsquo;s much tougher for the EPA to regulate salt from so many spread-out sources (storm drains spread out across the city and suburbs) than from, say, a factory with a fallout pipe dumping salt into the river.</font></font></p><p><font><font>So our question asker Aaron Stigger is right to worry about salt runoff, but not so much in Lake Michigan. In Chicago&rsquo;s case, it&rsquo;s our inland waterways that are in trouble.</font></font></p><p><strong><font><font>Corrosive chlorides and city infrastructure</font></font></strong></p><p><font><font>Before it even gets into area waterways, salt works its way through the city&rsquo;s subterranean network of pipes. That can cause problems for the city&rsquo;s Department of Water Management, which provides drinking water to Chicago and 125 suburbs. They also deliver stormwater to MWRD for treatment.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Tom Powers, the city&rsquo;s commissioner of water management, says chlorides are at such a low concentration in Lake Michigan that his department barely takes note.</font></font></p><p><font><font>&ldquo;It would require an incredible amount of road salt to affect Lake Michigan &mdash; that&rsquo;s a very robust system,&rdquo; Powers says. &ldquo;When we test [the water], it doesn&rsquo;t even appear on what we&rsquo;re testing for.&rdquo;</font></font></p><p><font><font>The EPA&rsquo;s national drinking water standard for chloride is 250 mg/L, some 20 times higher than Lake Michigan&rsquo;s current concentration. Chicago&rsquo;s Dept. of Water Management, like many such agencies, adds water softeners that can include salt. But it&rsquo;s not enough to even approach the EPA limits.</font></font></p><p><font><font>But road salt can corrode the pipes that carry that water, exacerbating the stress that the winter freeze-and-thaw cycle puts on an aging network of water pipes that would stretch 4,500 miles if laid end to end. About 1,000 miles of those water pipes are 100 years old or older, Powers says. In 2009 the department had to repair 8,873 catch basins &mdash; more than twice last year&rsquo;s 3,647.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Development in urban areas makes the salt corrosion problem worse, by funneling more runoff into the system. Studies have correlated growth in chloride levels with the rate of urbanization, and even with miles of road in the vicinity of the waterway in question.</font></font></p><p><font><font>&ldquo;While we are right to be cautious in applying &lsquo;common sense&rsquo; to such things,&rdquo; says Stephen McCracken, who coordinates the Conservation Foundation&rsquo;s DuPage River Salt Creek Workgroup, &ldquo;in this case the relationship seems quite straightforward with salt being applied to road surfaces, increased road density means a larger salt total applied, even at a constant application rate.&rdquo;</font></font></p><p><font><font>So more development, more impervious surfaces, more runoff.</font></font></p><p><strong><font><font>A saltier lake?</font></font></strong></p><p><font><font>So not much of that salt ends up in Lake Michigan. But there is enough runoff to register an increase in Lake Michigan&rsquo;s chloride levels since Chicago first started spreading road salt.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Kim Biggs, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, says the current chloride levels in Lake Michigan are around 12 milligrams per liter.</font></font></p><p><font><font>That number has risen since widespread use of road salt began around 1960, according to</font></font><a href="http://www.saltinstitute.org/" target="_blank"><font><font> the Salt Institute</font></font></a><font><font>. Chloride levels in Lake Michigan rise about 0.1 mg/L each year, but they&rsquo;re still well below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency&rsquo;s 500 mg/L standard for &ldquo;General Use waters&rdquo;. Nationally, EPA&rsquo;s criteria for chloride toxicity</font></font><a href="http://www.iowadnr.gov/portals/idnr/uploads/water/standards/ws_review.pdf?amp;tabid=1302" target="_blank"><font><font> are 230 mg/L over a four day average, or an hourly average of 860 mg/L</font></font></a><font><font>. (EPA is currently reevaluating that standard, which was first set in 1988.)</font></font></p><p><font><font>If you measure chlorides in Lake Michigan in the spring, however, you pick up all that winter road ice and runoff. Since 1980, springtime average chloride levels have risen almost 50 percent:</font></font></p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/epa data salt.png" title="" /></div><p><br /><font><font>High chloride levels choke aquatic species that depend on a certain salinity to keep their bodies in equilibrium. Amphibians, like salamanders and frogs, are especially susceptible to chloride pollution. Many of them breed in temporary </font></font><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/93733769@N03/9396817314/" target="_blank"><font><font>vernal pools</font></font></a><font><font> that are cut off from other bodies water, and thus have no way to flush out excess salt.</font></font></p><p><font><font>IEPA&rsquo;s Biggs says chlorides in Lake Michigan aren&rsquo;t threatening aquatic life. &ldquo;There are not significant concerns or actions being taken to reduce chlorides in Lake Michigan as they are still reading below the water quality standard,&rdquo; she wrote in an email. &ldquo;We do not feel that salt runoff from the Chicago area is a major contributor to the chloride levels in Lake Michigan.&rdquo;</font></font></p><p><font><font>Winter deicing is the major driver of high chloride levels in Chicago&rsquo;s waterways, but wastewater treatment also contributes. In the outfall of waste water treatment plants in DuPage County, for example, chloride levels are more than ten times higher than they are in Lake Michigan. Studies by the Illinois State Water Survey and MWRD sampled the water flowing out from MWRD&rsquo;s Stickney wastewater treatment (the largest such plant in the U.S.), and found median chloride levels of 145 mg/L, compared to 8-12 mg/L in Lake Michigan.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Most of MWRD&rsquo;s contribution comes from human waste itself, which contains chlorides. They also use ferric chloride to help filter wastewater &mdash; the chemical is useful for, among other eyebrow-raising processes, &ldquo;sludge thickening&rdquo; &mdash; but are moving away from that in favor of biologically-based techniques that would replace ferric chloride.</font></font></p><p><strong><font><font>If you can&rsquo;t beet &rsquo;em ...</font></font></strong></p><p><font><font>So what&rsquo;s the city doing to cut back on its salt use?</font></font></p><p><font><font>Dept. of Streets &amp; Sanitation spokeswoman Molly Poppe says they train salt truck drivers to spread salt judiciously &mdash; that means waiting until plows have cleared most standing snow, since salt sprinkled on top of several inches of the white stuff won&rsquo;t do much. When the forecast calls for mild temperatures, salt trucks take it easy and let the weather do some of the work.<a name="video"></a></font></font></p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="323" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/WphGL9fjbbo" width="575"></iframe></p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>City workers move salt at the depot at Grand and Rockwell (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)</em></p><p><font><font>The city even enlists an unusual fruit cocktail of sorts to get more out of its salt: beet juice. It&rsquo;s full of sugar, and helps lowers the freezing point of ice. Mixing salt with molasses or another sugary substance can do the same thing. Salt solutions are good too, because they spread out easier than rock salt so they&rsquo;re more efficient. Wisconsin has started spraying cheese brine for similar reasons.</font></font></p><p><font><font>Typical salt (sodium chloride) is not effective in subzero temperatures, but other salt compounds can break ice crystals at lower temperatures &mdash; calcium chloride and magnesium chloride are common substitutes, but they eat into concrete and metal faster than table salt. Right now the city uses sodium chloride.</font></font></p><p><font><font>So Aaron Stigger&rsquo;s salt pile is probably going to exist as long as severe winter weather visits Chicago. But if IEPA ups the standard for the metropolitan area&rsquo;s inland waterways, he might start to see the salt disappear a little bit more gradually.</font></font></p><p><em><a href="http://cabentley.com/"><font><font>Chris Bentley</font></font></a><font><font> is a reporter for WBEZ&rsquo;s Curious City and a freelance journalist. Follow him on Twitter at</font></font><a href="http://twitter.com/cementley" target="_blank"><font><font> @Cementley</font></font></a><font><font>.</font></font></em></p></p> Wed, 05 Mar 2014 13:45:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/how-much-road-salt-ends-lake-michigan-109814 EcoMyths: Do wildlife need our help in winter? http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-do-wildlife-need-our-help-winter-109743 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/EcoMyths Wildlife winter.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>With the extra-frigid winter we&#39;ve slogged through, it boggles my mind that <em>any</em> wildlife can survive so many sub-zero days outdoors. It has been hard enough for humans. So at EcoMyths we wondered: how do animals survive this challenge within our vast urban landscape? For our <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths">regular segment</a> on <em>Worldview</em>, Jerome McDonnell and I explored this topic with wildlife expert Bill Ziegler, Senior Vice President of Collections and Animal Programs at the <a href="http://www.czs.org/CZS/Brookfield/Zoo-Home.aspx">Brookfield Zoo</a>.</p><p><strong><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/134285676&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%"></iframe>Can Wild Animals Be Homeless?</strong></p><p>Bill explained that &quot;many of our native animals are, in fact, homeless because their habitats have been disappeared or dwindled, not just in Illinois, but also further afield.&nbsp; In a well-intentioned effort to beautify our cities and neighborhoods, we have gradually almost completely replaced native habitats that once provided both food and shelter for thousands of species of birds, animals, and insects.&quot;</p><p>Bill continues, &quot;Based on positive motivations, we have planted beautiful exotic flowers, bushes, and trees from other parts of the world. We have cleared oak forests and drained wetlands to build safe, dry homes. And we have replaced our messy native tall grass prairies with pristine lawns so that our kids can play soccer and baseball in the yard.&quot;</p><p><strong>Some Fixes Are As Simple as Falling Off A Log</strong></p><p>Whether inadvertent or not, in many places only small pockets of habitat remain for native creatures such as red fox, white tailed deer, opossum, frogs, salamanders, and songbirds. But even with forest preserves and parks, Bill encouraged us to take steps to help wildlife find food and shelter in residential areas. In our own yards and parks, it can be as simple as keeping a pile of leaves or old hollow logs in the yard over the winter to provide homes for small animals.</p><p>In the summer we can prepare friendly year-round habitat by planting groupings of bushes to provide &ldquo;micro-habitat&rdquo; sanctuaries with seeds and berries for food.</p><p>Bill also emphasized the importance of providing connections between wild spaces. In some parts of Illinois we are fortunate to have many natural greenways due to the efforts of the County Forest Preserves and other conservation organizations. Preserving corridors and providing new connections between separate open areas are essential to the health of the animals, so that they can move easily from place to place to find additional food, shelter, and breeding grounds.</p><p><strong>Where Palm Trees Sway</strong></p><p>Not only did Bill enlighten us on wildlife habitat in Illinois, we also discussed the recovery of panther populations in Florida and vast habitat losses and restoration efforts in Southeast Asia. Development in Florida has drastically reduced the cypress swamps and pinelands which the panther inhabits. Now living in only 5% of its former habitat, the panther is more likely to venture out into human territory. Efforts are underway to expand the Florida Panther habitat so they can live and breed in the large interconnected spaces they need. In much of Southeast Asia, such as Sumatra and Borneo, where rainforests are being clear-cut to make way for profitable palm oil plantations, thousands of plant and animal species have been displaced.Much of the land has become a monoculture &ndash; home to a single species of plant. Orangutans and tigers are being driven out, as are the indigenous people who depend on these forests. In spite of agreements to make these plantations more sustainable, habitats continues to be lost and damaged.</p><p><strong>Healthy Wildlife Habitat is Healthier for Humans Too</strong></p><p>Although the protection of any particular single species may seem unimportant, it turns out that the restoration of native habitats is actually important to the human species as well. Why? Because native plantings absorb rainwater to prevent flooding and refill our groundwater wells; forests absorb excess CO2 from the atmosphere moderating the rate of global warming; native plants attract and support the insects that depend on them; the native insects support the diets of the birds and mammals which in turn help the local plants to thrive by pollinating and spreading their seeds. There is no need to take extreme measures, like throwing out all our exotic plants and flowers from other areas of the world. These help make the landscape beautiful. But non-natives can also co-exist with healthy populations of native plants. Including native plants as part of your landscape can complement your colorful garden and also provide important habitat for local creatures. ;</p><p><strong>One Green Thing You Can Do: <u>Incorporate Native Plants</u></strong></p><p>Bill recommended consulting your local nurseries for advice on incorporating native plants into your yard. Not only will you be helping the wildlife, but your plants will be easier to care for!</p><p>Listen to today&rsquo;s EcoMyths Worldview podcast (link this) to hear the whole interview on the value of snow! To learn more about this myth, listen to the podcast of today&rsquo;s show or go to the <a href="http://www.ecomythsalliance.org/">EcoMyths Alliance website</a> to read further about the how we can help wildlife in winter and all year long.</p></p> Tue, 11 Feb 2014 09:48:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-do-wildlife-need-our-help-winter-109743 Just how bad is this Chicago winter? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/just-how-bad-chicago-winter-109637 <p><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: This post has been updated to reflect how the 2013-2014 winter season in particular compares to seasons past. It introduces the Accumulated Winter Season Severity Index, which seeks to combine several factors that make winter miserable: temperatures, snowfall and a winter season&#39;s duration. As of March 17, the index would suggest the 2013-2014 was the third-worst since the 1950s. Additionally, the season ranks third-highest when it comes to&nbsp;</em><em><a href="#snow">snowfall</a>&nbsp;measured from Dec. 1 to the end of February.&nbsp;</em><em>Continue reading to see how recent decades (not just this season) compare to those of Chicago&#39;s past when it comes to&nbsp;<a href="#temps">temperature</a>,&nbsp;<a href="#windchill">wind chill</a>,&nbsp;<a href="#extremes">extreme events</a>,&nbsp;<a href="#grey">grey skies</a>, and&nbsp;<a href="#city">city response</a>.&nbsp;</em></p><p>Maybe you&rsquo;re still warming up from January&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/polar-vortex">polar vortex</a> &mdash; replacing your car&rsquo;s battery or repairing the plastic insulation taped into your window frames &mdash; but bear with us: What&rsquo;s the worst part of winter?</p><p>Curious City recently got a related question from Edgewater resident Tracey Rosen:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>&ldquo;Is it&nbsp;true&nbsp;that Chicago winters were worse than they are now?&quot;</em></p><p>I asked Illinois State Climatologist <a href="http://www.wbez.org/results?s=jim%20angel">Jim Angel</a>, who pointed out Tracey&rsquo;s query raises questions of its own.</p><p>&ldquo;I have wrestled with that question before &mdash; what constitutes a &lsquo;bad&rsquo; winter. Is it the snow, the cold temperature, the length of the season, etc.,&rdquo; Angel said in an email. &ldquo;I can tell you that by most measures the winters in the late 1970s were the worst.&rdquo;</p><p>But it depends on what you deem &ldquo;worse.&rdquo; Would that be a winter with more snow? One with more big snowstorms? Should the coldest winter count? Or maybe one where city services like public transportation freeze to a halt?<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/tracey%20rosen%20WEB.jpg" style="float: right; height: 195px; width: 260px;" title="Question-asker Tracey Rosen, who asked Curious City if Chicago winters were really worse than they are now. (Photo courtesy Tracey Rosen)" /></p><p>To answer Tracey&rsquo;s question, we broke down some of the more universal descriptors of a &ldquo;bad&rdquo; winter and found out which years had it the worst (<a href="#temps">temperature</a>, <a href="#windchill">wind chill</a>, <a href="#snow">snowfall</a>, <a href="#extremes">extreme events</a>, <a href="#grey">grey skies</a>, and <a href="#city">city response</a>).</p><p>Along the way we found out what effect a brutal Chicago winter has on the people who live here and how some of them cope. But we also struck gold when we found there&rsquo;ve been attempts to scientifically assign a value to each winter&rsquo;s particular blend of meteorological misery; this would be <a href="#misery">one measurement to rule them all</a> &mdash; or at least allow us to compare a snowy, but mild winter to one that was cold but had clear skies.</p><p><strong><a name="misery"></a>Winter and our discontent</strong></p><p>A scientist with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association researches the question we&rsquo;re asking: How do you judge a severe winter? Barbara Mayes Boustead developed the <a href="https://ams.confex.com/ams/93Annual/webprogram/Paper218513.html" target="_blank">Accumulated Winter Season Severity Index</a> (AWSSI, pronounced &ldquo;aussie&rdquo;) to mathematically pin all of this down.</p><p>AWSSI assigns points to each winter based on its daily temperature maximums and minimums, its snowfall and lingering snow depth, and its length. The index designates the &quot;start&quot; of winter when the first snow falls, or the first high temperature that&rsquo;s 32 degrees or colder. If neither of these happens before Dec. 1, then that&rsquo;s when the index starts counting. The &quot;end&quot; of winter is set by the last snowfall date, the last day with one inch or more of snow depth, or the last day when the maximum temperature is 32 degrees or colder. If none of these occurs after February, then the last day of February is the end of winter.</p><p>The winter of 2013-2014 &ldquo;began&rdquo; in Chicago on Nov. 11, according to AWSSI, with 0.4 inches of snow. That&rsquo;s close to the average start date of Nov. 13, which means it&rsquo;s unlikely to rank as one of the city&rsquo;s longest winters &mdash; several have stretched five or six months. In 2006, winter started on Oct. 12 and didn&rsquo;t end until April 12.</p><p>The following chart represents the trajectory of misery within specific seasons. Read from left to right, you can see when a particular winter season began and &mdash;&nbsp;as the line climbs &mdash; how it performed on the AWSSI scale. This version represents only the five highest- and five lowest-ranking seasons. The blue, filled-in section represents 2013-2014, while the black line follows the average since the start of the 1950-1951 season. &nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://llnw.wbez.org/insert-images/boustead winter update.png" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/boustead%20winter%20update.png" style="height: 447px; width: 615px; margin: 5px;" title="Click to enlarge! This chart shows the five highest-ranking and five lowest-ranking winter seasons according to the Accumulated Winter Season Severity Index. The 2013-2014 season is indicated by the blue, filled-in section and is current through March 17, 2014. The black line represents the average compiled from the beginning of the 1950-1951 winter season. Data provided by NOAA's Barbara Mayes Boustead." /></a></div></div><p>Statistically speaking, the AWWSI suggests that this winter is indeed &quot;bad&quot; compared to previous seasons; as of March 17, Boustead said,&nbsp;2013-2014 ranked as the third-most severe since the 1950s.&nbsp;</p><p>Omaha-based Boustead said she her work&#39;s<a href="http://www.omaha.com/article/20111124/NEWS01/711249895" target="_blank"> inspired by the descriptions in Laura Ingalls Wilder&rsquo;s Little House on the Prairie novels</a>, particularly <em>The Long Winter</em>.</p><p>&ldquo;What I&rsquo;ve been doing this whole thing for is so that I can go back to these records and add up what their AWSSI was that winter and show how severe that winter was,&rdquo; she said.</p><p><strong><a name="temps"></a>Temperatures: chilly, crisp or spiteful</strong></p><p>Looking at data from the <a href="http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/">National Climatic Data Center, housed in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration</a>, you can <a href="http://www.southernclimate.org/products/trends.php">get a sense of that &lsquo;70s chill</a> Angel mentioned:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img src="https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/h9P0LhfCacDnZMY2oWtx98ZK62yvDYMNhyDZGL-DRRCy7T67acaWyh-41Sy1yJ95Jni3eZR7bc-R9YE5kvDpDKhz1LhEMGRTced1Q-wJ5nAAEDrjBqI2ko3HmQ" style="margin: 5px; height: 474px; width: 610px;" title="Winter season temperatures in Illinois. Chart courtesy of Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program. " /></p><p>The green dots are the temperatures during individual winters (December-February). The red and blue areas are periods where warmer and cooler temperatures, respectively, dominated. A relatively cold period for northeastern Illinois (compared to its average winter temperature of 25.1 degrees Fahrenheit) began in 1976 and continued through 1987. Relatively mild winters, average-temperature-wise, immediately followed, from 1988 through 2006.</p><p><a href="http://www.crh.noaa.gov/lot/?n=chi_records">Chicago&rsquo;s coldest month was January 1977</a>, with an average temperature of just 10.1 degrees Fahrenheit. The coldest single temperature reading, however, was eight years later. On January 20, 1985 the thermometers hit 27 degrees below zero. And Chicago&rsquo;s coldest year on record was 1875, with an annual average temperature of 45.1 degrees.</p><p>On Jan. 26, a press release issued by Gov. Pat Quinn&rsquo;s office reminded Illinoisans that some freezes can be fatal:</p><p>&ldquo;Extreme cold temperatures are dangerous and can be deadly. Since 1995, more than 130 fatalities related to cold temperatures have occurred in Illinois, making it the second-leading cause of weather-related deaths in Illinois in the past two decades.&rdquo;</p><p><iframe align="right" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="300" scrolling="no" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/zZVElJBkO7Q?rel=0" width="405"></iframe></p><p>We&rsquo;ve had a few bouts of persistently cold temperatures this winter, including one that approached a length not seen since 1996, when a 66-hour run of subzero temperatures became the area&rsquo;s second longest. That record belongs to a 98-hour period beginning on Dec. 26, 1983.</p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s temperature as measured at O&rsquo;Hare Airport has dropped below zero 15 times this winter, <a href="http://blog.chicagoweathercenter.com/category/tims-weather-world/">as of</a> the end of January &mdash; that&rsquo;s twice the long-term average. That puts us not far from the winter of 1978-79, when the city saw subzero temperatures 23 times.</p><p>The1970s were indeed cold and snowy, enough to be a point of pride for the Chicagoans who weathered those years.</p><p>&ldquo;When people comment and say, &lsquo;Oh winters are not as cold as they used to be,&rsquo; it&rsquo;s a way to say, &lsquo;My Chicago is not what it used to be,&rsquo;&rdquo; said our question asker, Tracey Rosen. &ldquo;You know, the identity of the Chicago that I drew from is not what these young people are doing with Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p>Statistically speaking, though, the winter of 2013-14 could give young Chicagoans an idea of what their late 70s forbears had to deal with. Again, Barbara Mayes Boustead&#39;s &ldquo;winter severity index&rdquo; ranks this season &mdash; as of March 17 &mdash; the city&rsquo;s third-most &ldquo;severe&rdquo; since the 1950s.&nbsp;</p><p><strong><a name="windchill"></a>Wind chill: The wind blows cold</strong></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Meridith112%20st%20charles%202014.jpg" style="float: left; height: 230px; width: 260px;" title="Wind chills can add some misery to any Chicago winter. (Flickr/Meridith112)" />A biting wind can make an ordinary cold night feel like a deep freeze &mdash; January&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/polar-vortex">polar vortex</a> brought Arctic wind chills as low as 40 degrees below zero. But, Chicago&rsquo;s coldest wind chill ever was -82 degrees. It came on Christmas Eve, 1983.</p><p>The wind in the term &ldquo;wind chill&rdquo; can compound a winter season&rsquo;s misery. For example, gusts can make it hard to clear snow. Tim Gibbons has owned Tim&rsquo;s Snowplowing, Inc. for 30 years. They&rsquo;re located in Humboldt Park now, but Gibbons started plowing in the neighborhood he grew up in and still calls home &mdash; North Center. Lately wind has been making his job difficult.</p><p>&ldquo;What we&rsquo;ve had is the phenomenon of a light, dry snow followed by a heavy-wind vortex, as these systems pass, that is taking that same light, dry snow and moved it back across whatever surface it was on,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;If it was a wet, heavy snow &hellip; it&rsquo;s less likely to be driven by any wind. But this light, dry, fluffy snow moves around like dust.&rdquo;</p><p><strong><a name="snow"></a>Snowfall: Speaking of fluffy stuff</strong></p><p>According to <a href="http://www.crh.noaa.gov/lot/?n=CHI_winter_snow">data from the National Weather Service</a>, four of the five snowiest decades since 1890 have occurred in the last 50 years, as have eight of the 10 snowiest individual winters on record. Average snowfall for winters in the 1970s was just over 40 inches per year. (For comparison, the decade with the driest winters was the 1920s, with only 18.2 inches of snowfall per year on average.)</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="400" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" scrolling="no" src="http://cf.datawrapper.de/kgv6U/2/" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="600"></iframe></p><p>Chicago went 107 days with snow on the ground from November 27, 1978 to March 13, 1979.</p><p>This season, it&#39;s unlikely we&#39;ll have snow in sight for such a long period. And, despite some notable snowfalls, some key operations are able to keep up. According to climatologist Jim Angel, this winter we have not gone more than about four days in a row with snow cover at O&rsquo;Hare. &quot;Of course,&quot; he adds, &quot;some of the piles of snow in parking lots are lasting a lot longer.&quot;&nbsp;</p><p><strong><a name="extremes"></a>Finding the extremes</strong></p><p>Just as averages can blur individual data points, looking at total snowfall can miss the difference between a quaint winter wonderland and <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoth">Hoth</a>: huge snowstorms.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/winter%20%20Forest%20Preserve%20District%20of%20Cook%20County%20Records%2C%20University%20of%20Illinois%20at%20Chicago%20Library.jpg" style="float: right; height: 241px; width: 300px;" title="One good thing about lots of snow? Tobagganing. (Photo courtesy Forest Preserve District of Cook County Records, University of Illinois at Chicago Library)" />Since 1886, there have been 42 storms that brought 10 inches of snow or more to Chicago, said Ben Deubelbeiss of the National Weather Service. (The most recent one was in 2011, when <a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/2011-blizzard">more than 20 inches of snow blanketed the city, stranding cars on Lake Shore Drive</a>.) Every decade has had at least one such storm, but the 1890s leads the pack with seven. The 1970s is a close second, however, with six snowstorms that dropped at least 10 inches. The 1960s were third, with five.</p><p>How about individual years? It&rsquo;s rare for any given year to have more than one Chicago snowstorm that big. In fact, Deubelbeiss said since NWS&rsquo; records began in 1886, only five years have had two storms with more than 10 inches of snow each: 1894, 1895, 1896, 1978, and 1970.</p><p>Here are Chicago&rsquo;s ten biggest snowstorms:</p><p>1. 23.0 inches Jan 26-27, 1967<br />2. 21.6 inches Jan 1-3, 1999<br />3. 21.2 inches Feb. 1-2, 2011<br />4. 20.3 inches Jan 13-14, 1979<br />5. 19.2 inches Mar 25-26, 1930<br />6. 16.2 inches Mar 7-8, 1931<br />7. 15.0 inches Dec 17-20, 1929<br />8. 14.9 inches Jan 30, 1939<br />9. 14.9 inches Jan 6-7, 1918<br />10. 14.3 inches Mar 25-26, 1970</p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s single <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/politics/chi-chicagodays-1967blizzard-story,0,1032940.story">biggest snowstorm</a> occurred on Jan. 26, 1967. At 5:02 a.m. it began to snow. It snowed all day and night, until 10:10 a.m. the next day, dropping 23 inches of snow in all. Looting broke out, some people were stranded overnight at work or in school, and 26 people died as a result of the storm.</p><p>(Not everything was bad about the massive snowfall. Chicago Public Library researchers said <a href="https://web.archive.org/web/20040402070119/http://www.chipublib.org/004chicago/disasters/snowstorms.html">some of the 75 million tons of snow that fell that year made its way to &quot;as a present to Florida children who had never seen snow before.&quot;</a>)</p><p>Cold temperatures and periodic snow continued for the next ten days, aggravating attempts to cleanup after the storm and get city services back to normal. All that was made a bit more shocking by the fact that just two days before the storm, the temperature had reached a record 65 degrees.</p><p><strong><a name="grey"></a>Grey skies: The not-so-fluffy stuff</strong></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Jon%20Pekelnicky.jpg" style="float: left; height: 278px; width: 370px;" title="On average, Chicago gets sunshine 54 percent of the time. This is not one of those times. (Flickr/Jon Pekelnicky)" />Chicagoan Frank Wachowski <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-08-09/news/ct-met-weather-watcher-frank-20110809_1_national-weather-service-chicago-weather-weather-page">has catalogued the city&#39;s weather data for decades</a>, compiling its longest continuous volume of meteorological data. One thing he keeps track of is the amount of sunlight that shines each day.</p><p>Of the years tracked in Wachowski&rsquo;s records, 1992 had the most winter days (November through February) with no sunshine &mdash; 46 of those 121 days registered zero percent on Wachowski&rsquo;s sunshine recorder. Of the 25 gloomiest years using this measure, only five have occurred since 1990.</p><p>On average, Chicago only gets sunshine 54 percent of the time. That annual average has stayed about the same for 30 years, Wachowski said.</p><p>In the winter, it&rsquo;s even grayer. Winter months typically get sunshine less than 44 percent of the time. In November 1985, the sun only shined on average 16 percent of the time.</p><p>That&rsquo;s not surprising to people with Seasonal Affective Disorder, like <a href="http://arlenemalinowski.com/not_normal.htm">Arlene Malinowski</a>. SAD, as it&rsquo;s known by its acronym, afflicts about six percent of Americans. Malinowski&rsquo;s an actor and playwright who <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arlene-malinowski-phd/seasonal-affective-disorder_b_4551574.html">has written about</a> the depression that sets in during long, gray winters.</p><p>&ldquo;You&rsquo;re tired all the time, there is this decreased energy, a real lack of focus and productivity. It is more than just, &ldquo;oh blah I&rsquo;m having a bad day&rdquo; &mdash; it is a deep, deep sadness and emptiness,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Last week I looked out the window and the streetlights were on at 11 o&rsquo;clock in the morning, and I thought, &lsquo;This is not right.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>But there&rsquo;s a light at the end of the tunnel, literally. A lightbox can simulate sunlight indoors &mdash; a therapy Malinowski recommends along with walks or vacations, if you can take them.</p><p><strong><a name="city"></a>Municipal response: City Hall on the case</strong></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago-warming-centers-options-and-limits-109470">If you can stay warm and indoors during cold snaps and snowstorms</a>, even extreme weather itself doesn&rsquo;t throw off your schedule for more than a day or two. But when city services grind to a halt, the agony of a winter storm can go on for much longer.</p><p>When 20.3 inches of snow fell on Chicago Jan. 13-14, 1979, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/best-game-town/great-lsd-gridlock-blizzard-1979-redux">it snarled both city streets and Mayor Michael Bilandic&rsquo;s reelection ambitions</a>.Jane Byrne went on to win the municipal election less than two months later, <a href="http://www.npr.org/2010/12/30/132478152/Political-Lessons-From-Old-Chicago-Blizzard-Still-Linger">and the politics of snow would become associated with her term forever</a>.</p><p>New CTA lines running in expressway medians choked on all the de-icing salt. Unlike previous storms, the 1979 blizzard saw massive closures of rapid transit lines, in addition to buses, cars and flights.</p><p><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cvFwjhpkjL0">WBBM Channel 2 News did a Special Report</a> on the city&rsquo;s response during that storm&rsquo;s aftermath. In his intro to the segment, newsman Bill Kurtis described a scene that may sound familiar to those who have weathered more recent blizzards:</p><p>&ldquo;Side streets still unpassable. Public transportation snarled. Expressways buried. O&rsquo;Hare Airport closed for one of the few times in its history. This is turning out to be Chicago&rsquo;s winter of discontent, alright.&rdquo;</p><p>About O&rsquo;Hare closing &mdash; Chicago Department of Aviation spokeswoman Karen Pride said while they always have staff on hand to maintain the airport, winter weather has temporarily knocked out all available runways on several occasions. There were &ldquo;nearly half a dozen&rdquo; such occasions in the 1970s and 80s, Pride said, but that hasn&#39;t happened since.</p><p>Another major blizzard struck the Midwest in 1999, dropping <a href="http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/extremes/1999/january/blizzard99.html">22 inches of snow on Chicago</a> before temperatures plummeted to -20 degrees or lower in parts of Illinois on January 3 and 4. The National Weather Service ranked it as the second worst blizzard of the 20th century, behind only the blizzard of 1967.</p><p>Later that month in 1999, President Bill Clinton declared a disaster area in half of Illinois&rsquo; counties. Areas of Indiana were also declared disaster areas. The Midwest storm caught Detroit off guard but, <a href="http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/extremes/1999/january/blizzard99.html">according to Stanley A. Changnon of the NCDC</a>, &ldquo;Chicago was prepared. The city put 850 snow removal trucks on the streets (240 is the normal number for heavy snow).&rdquo;</p><p>The 1999 storm was slightly larger than the one in 1979, at least in terms of snowfall, but it doesn&rsquo;t carry the weight of a mayor&rsquo;s political career. It did, however, set some records. Lake Shore Drive was shut down altogether for the first time in history, and Interstate 65 in Northwest Indiana was also closed. Chicago Public Schools extended winter break by two days. By Jan. 9, one week after the storm, <a href="http://www.examiner.com/article/chicago-s-11th-year-anniversary-of-the-1999-new-years-snowstorm">only about half of Chicago students were back in class</a>.</p><p>Our most recent massive snowstorm &mdash; the 20.2-inch blizzard of 2011, responsible for the city&rsquo;s third highest snowfall on record &mdash; shares some things with its 1999 predecessor. <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/02/03/us-weather-chicago-idUSTRE71180W20110203">Chicago Public Schools were again closed</a>, for the first time since 1999, and cars were once again stranded on Lake Shore Drive.</p><p><strong>Climate change</strong></p><p>In terms of cold and snow, generally speaking, the trend is toward milder winters. How much milder Chicago&rsquo;s winters will become, and how quickly that will happen, is difficult to pinpoint.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/GILL%20COLD%20WEB.jpg" style="float: left;" title="Despite what this photo implies, Chicago winters are getting milder, generally. (WBEZ/Andrew Gill)" />&ldquo;This pattern we have been seeing &mdash; especially since the late 70s &mdash; is just this pattern of fewer days below zero, less snowfall and just overall some warmer conditions when you look at the average temperatures,&rdquo; said State Climatologist Jim Angel. &ldquo;And that kind of makes this one seem even more dramatic, I think, because we&rsquo;re not used to this kind of weather.&rdquo;</p><p>Climate change is <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/23/science/earth/23adaptation.html?pagewanted=all">making the baseline Chicago winter more mild</a> but, perversely, it might also make extreme bouts of cold more common. While the overall trend is toward warmer temperatures, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jan/10/white-house-climate-change-polar-vortex-google-hangout">some scientists think the off-kilter &quot;polar vortex&quot; that caused early 2014&#39;s frigid temperatures</a> could drift down from the Arctic more often due to climatic variations. If that proves true, future winters could paradoxically be milder, but more prone to bouts of extreme cold thanks to <a href="http://www.climate.gov/news-features/event-tracker/how-polar-vortex-related-arctic-oscillation">an unruly &quot;Arctic Oscillation.&quot;</a> (<a href="http://www.skepticalscience.com/pliocene-snapshot.html">It&rsquo;s been millions of years</a> since we&rsquo;ve had as much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as we do now, so we may see some strange or seemingly paradoxical climate and weather effects &mdash; <a href="http://www.northeastern.edu/news/2012/03/globalweirding/">some people even prefer the term &quot;global weirding&quot;</a> to describe the unexpected results of climate change.)</p><p>As we continue to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, scientists expect the average global temperature to increase. <a href="http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/national/2013/13">Last year was warmer and wetter than average for the contiguous U.S.</a>, NOAA said in January &mdash; a finding consistent with climate change.</p><p><strong>A silver lining?</strong></p><p>Ultimately agony is a matter of perspective when it come to winter weather.</p><p>Tim Gibbons of TSI Snow said it&rsquo;s important to remember the good times. The 54-year-old has been around for some mighty winters, but has only fond memories of the blustery late 1970s.</p><p>&ldquo;We would skate on frozen parks outside pretty much from Christmas to Valentine&rsquo;s Day, nonstop. They didn&rsquo;t plow the side streets at all back then,&rdquo; Gibbons said. &ldquo;We would skitch &mdash; or hang on the bumper of moving cars &mdash; for entertainment, to get places. It was really quite an interesting means of transportation.&rdquo;</p><p>Now that he&rsquo;s older, he admits business can be stressful during extreme winters. But he said that&rsquo;s not the whole story. His advice? People should help each other shovel out their cars (he&rsquo;s no fan of dibs), and remember that even the coldest winter&rsquo;s only temporary.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s time we all take a deep breath, count our blessings, soldier on in the true &lsquo;I will&rsquo; spirit of Chicago,&rdquo; Gibbons said. &ldquo;Hearty people live in Chicago. We get through our winters and we celebrate our summers as a result.&rdquo;</p><p><em><a href="http://cabentley.com/">Chris Bentley</a> is a reporter for Curious City. Follow him on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/Cementley">@Cementley</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 05 Feb 2014 07:39:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/just-how-bad-chicago-winter-109637 A snow-shoveling death hits close to home http://www.wbez.org/news/snow-shoveling-death-hits-close-home-109520 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/VictorCafeCROPhorizontal.png" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px 0px; float: right; height: 241px; width: 300px;" title="Víctor Medina, 48, collapsed in the city’s Humboldt Park neighborhood January 5 while trying to clear out his family’s parking spot. (Family photo)" />Early January&rsquo;s bout of snow and cold brought the usual media tally of winter-related casualties, including four men in the Chicago area who suffered fatal heart attacks while shoveling snow. You never know it from the death count, but each victim has a story.</p><p>On Tuesday, relatives of Víctor Medina laid his body to rest. Medina, 48, collapsed in the city&rsquo;s Humboldt Park neighborhood January 5. He was trying to clear snow from the parking spot behind his family&rsquo;s apartment.</p><p>I see that parking spot every time I take out my garbage. I see the apartment every morning through my kitchen window. Víctor was my next-door neighbor.</p><p>I chatted with him in passing, now and then, but another guy in my building knew him much better.</p><p>&ldquo;Víctor was one of the first people I met when I moved here in 2003,&rdquo; said Jason Walejeski, recalling our neighbor hanging out in his backyard, catching up with friends. &ldquo;He always wanted to know how you were doing.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/VictorFamilyCROP.png" title="Medina, his wife Jeanette Vázquez, and their children Kelvin and Dalysha celebrate Dalysha’s graduation last year from Prosser Career Academy, a high school on Chicago’s Northwest Side. (Family photo)" /></div><p>Víctor also kept an eye out for people who did not belong around his building &mdash; or ours. He thwarted three burglary attempts on our property and, a couple summers ago, he alerted us to something else. &ldquo;Your back fence is on fire,&rdquo; Jason recalled Víctor informing him over the phone.</p><p>That fence was made of wood. It abutted a fire escape, also made of wood, that ran up the back side of our building. &ldquo;Someone had been using their grill earlier in the day and they put the coals down next to the fence,&rdquo; Jason said. &ldquo;Víctor [helped] put it out right away &mdash; crisis averted. He was just always looking out for us.&rdquo;</p><p>Víctor also watched out for his two kids, especially his daughter, Dalysha, 19. &ldquo;It was pretty bad growing up in Humboldt Park and hearing all of the gunshots through my window and having to be scared,&rdquo; she told me.</p><p>Dalysha said her father protected her: &ldquo;We used to have a candy store on the corner and I&rsquo;d be, like, &lsquo;Can I go out and get some candy on the corner?&rsquo; &rdquo;</p><p>She said his response was always the same: No. The only way Dalysha could venture down the block was hand-in-hand with him.</p><p>That sort of parenting seems to have paid off. Dalysha made it into Dominican University, where she is a freshman. Her brother, Kelvin, 20, is a private in the U.S. Marines.</p><p>Víctor pushed his kids to go places he could not. Raised in Ponce, the Puerto Rican city, he had 15 brothers and sisters. As a young man, he migrated to Chicago and ended up working mostly kitchen jobs.</p><p>He worked, that is, as much as his health allowed it. Víctor had deep vein thrombosis, heart problems and high blood pressure. The heart attack that killed him was his fourth, Dalysha said.</p><p>In a typical U.S. winter, roughly 100 people suffer fatal cardiac arrests while shoveling snow. Considering Víctor&rsquo;s medical conditions, I had to ask his family the obvious question: Why on earth was he out shoveling?</p><p>&ldquo;Víctor said, &lsquo;If I don&rsquo;t do the shoveling, who&rsquo;s going to do it?&rsquo; &rdquo; his widow, Jeanette Vázquez, told me.</p><p>Jeanette said she would plead with him. She would insist that snow shoveling was the landlord&rsquo;s responsibility. But after 26 years together, she knew she had little chance of changing his mind. &ldquo;That was Víctor,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>And now?</p><p>&ldquo;I miss him a lot,&rdquo; Jeanette said through tears, her voice so faint I could hardly hear it. &ldquo;A lot, a lot, a lot.&rdquo;</p><p>I wasn&rsquo;t all that close to Víctor. I did not know him beyond what we could express over the fence in a minute or so. I never seemed to have more time.</p><p>But I will think of Víctor whenever I see his daughter getting home from a day of classes. I will think of him the next time someone tries to break in to our building. I&rsquo;ll remember him whenever snow has buried my car. Whenever I&rsquo;m shoveling out.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/cmitchell-0">Chip Mitchell</a>&nbsp;is WBEZ&rsquo;s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him on Twitter&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/ChipMitchell1">@ChipMitchell1</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>, and connect with him through&nbsp;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/chipmitchell1">Facebook</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://plus.google.com/111079509307132701769" rel="me">Google+</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChipMitchell1">LinkedIn</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 15 Jan 2014 10:15:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/snow-shoveling-death-hits-close-home-109520 Chicago warming centers: The options and the limits http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago-warming-centers-options-and-limits-109470 <p><p><em>Editor&rsquo;s note: Our first answer to this question was put together while the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services was inundated with media and service requests concerning the frigid temperatures that arrived Sunday, Jan. 5. Spokesman Matt Smith was gracious enough to follow through with a comprehensive interview the following day. The current story reflects those comments and clarifications.</em></p><p>Caitlin Castelaz doesn&rsquo;t live in Chicago anymore, but that didn&rsquo;t stop her from watching news about <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/below-zero-temps-push-midwest-northeast-109464" target="_blank">the &ldquo;polar vortex&rdquo; that arrived in our region</a>. And, she said, she welled up with concern as her social media feeds filled with troubling updates and warnings. The former Rogers Park native thought about a fellow she used to pass frequently.</p><p>&ldquo;This guy &mdash; he was basically my neighbor,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;He lives under the train tracks for the El. I&rsquo;m thinking, Where&rsquo;s he gonna go? I&rsquo;m hoping he&rsquo;s got connections to go somewhere.&rdquo;</p><p>So Caitlin hopped on <a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org/" target="_blank">our website</a> from her cozy New York apartment and asked us:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>What are the capacities and limitations of city shelters during the cold months? How can Chicagoans help out?</em></p><p>As we and Caitlin prepped for this story, we thought we should expand the meaning of &ldquo;city shelters&rdquo; and, after a little digging, we were glad we did. The homeless are particularly vulnerable to the cold temps, but the city of Chicago understands that others sometimes need help, too. The city offers warming centers to anyone on the wrong side of a cold snap; one important caveat, though, is that the city offers safety during the cold, but not necessarily comfort.</p><p><strong>Capacity</strong></p><p>3,000. That&rsquo;s the number of beds Matt Smith from the Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS) said the city has available to those who need a safe, warm spot to sleep overnight during emergencies. Smith said that figure comprises approximately 600-700 beds in the shelter system. The rest serve as interim housing.</p><p dir="ltr">According to Smith, the system has not reached capacity since our sub-zero stretch hit Sunday, Jan. 5. (Smith estimates that 96 percent of beds were filled the evening of Monday, Jan. 6.) He said the city could add emergency bedding for an additional 500-600 people if needed.</p><p dir="ltr">Both Smith and the <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/oem.html" target="_blank">Office of Emergency Management and Communications</a> assured residents that no one who needs help will be turned away.</p><p dir="ltr">But the City of Chicago is not the only one providing emergency places to stay warm and sleep. Private organizations and nonprofits also offer spots to stay warm and sleep.</p><p>Kristine Kappel, who coordinates shelter services for Catholic Charities, wrote that as of Monday afternoon, &ldquo;At Catholic Charities in Cook and Lake Counties we have 287 shelter beds available and are at full capacity.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Chicago operates a dozen <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/fss/provdrs/serv/svcs/dfss_warming_centers.html" target="_blank">warming centers</a> throughout the city, many of which are offices or centers run by the Department of Family Support and Services. Notably, only the Garfield Center at 10 S. Kedzie Ave. offers overnight accommodations. Smith said that between Sunday, Jan. 5 and the morning of Tuesday, Jan. 7, approximately 1,500 people had used the city warming centers.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/caitlin-1.jpg" style="height: 233px; width: 350px; float: right;" title="Caitlin Castelaz feels we can better protect people by knowing more about how social and other services operate during emergencies, including cold snaps. (Courtesy of Facebook)" /></p><p>Anyone who needs a spot to beat the cold can also go to <a href="http://www.ccc.edu/" target="_blank">City Colleges</a>, <a href="https://www.chipublib.org/" target="_blank">public libraries</a> and <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/oemc/general/PDF/Cold_Weather_Shelters_Map.pdf" target="_blank">police and fire stations across the city</a>. According to officer Marty Ridge, who works out of the 14th District station in Logan Square, these are meant to be places to warm up and beat the elements for a short time; there&rsquo;s no food or drink served. Police can coordinate a ride to a longer term solution &mdash; be that a warming center or a shelter.</p><p><strong>Limitations</strong></p><p>Aside from the Kedzie location, the warming centers offer limited hours, though the city has <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/fss/supp_info/CommunityCenters/WarmingCenterFlyers/010214WCenterFlyerExtendedHours.pdf" target="_blank">extended centers&rsquo; operations</a> during the current bout of dangerously low temperatures and high winds. Some city warming sites are open only to seniors.</p><p>Smith said that during non-emergency situations, there&rsquo;s a gap between when warming centers close and shelters open, leaving people with a few hours to kill before a warm space opens up.</p><p>&ldquo;By extending those hours, they can leave a warming center at 8pm and go right to a shelter,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Or if they&rsquo;re in the shelter system &nbsp;they can stay to just wait it out.&rdquo;</p><p>Half of the city&rsquo;s warming centers are for seniors, and those offer hot beverages and food year round, but the other six sites don&rsquo;t. That limitation means some people who do find relief from the cold must eventually head back into once they get hungry.</p><p>Several WBEZ reporters were turned away from reporting from inside warming sites, but West Side Bureau Reporter Chip Mitchell interviewed Jerome Williams, who spent Sunday evening at the Garfield Center. Williams reported that the bathrooms were in terrible shape.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s urine all over the floor. There&rsquo;s no door, and it&rsquo;s not cleaned right,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not nice for the kids to be in there. No door on the stall. None whatsoever. They say there&rsquo;s work going on it. They said that a couple of weeks ago.&rdquo;</p><p>Concerning this complaint, Smith said the warming centers are &ldquo;not luxurious&rdquo; and meant to simply keep people out of harm&rsquo;s way. &ldquo;Given the fact that people are sometimes in emergency situations, maybe someone will have an accident and they may not smell fresh. The point is it&rsquo;s an alternative to someone being out in the deadly cold, and it is deadly cold.&quot;</p><p><em>(Update: On Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 7 we received a message from 28th Ward Alderman Jason C. Ervin&#39;s office stating they reached out to&nbsp;Fleet and Facilities Management and the bathroom stall door situation &quot;... is being fixed as of this point.&quot;)</em></p><p>Another limitation of the shelter system is outreach. While the city and other agencies attempt to direct residents in need to available resources or shelters, those residents sometimes do not accept the offers. Officer Marty Ridge said it can be an issue of trust; some have had negative experiences at a shelter or they&rsquo;re reluctant to leave all of their belongings behind. Shelters won&rsquo;t necessarily hold someone&rsquo;s shopping cart full of belongings.</p><p>The city attempts to educate people living on the streets about available resources. Smith said the city collaborates with various agencies to step up that outreach ahead of and in times of extreme cold or heat.</p><p>&ldquo;We can&rsquo;t force someone to come in off the street, but we&rsquo;ll certainly try to assist them and work with them to get them to the point where they will accept our services,&rdquo; Smith said.</p><p><strong>So, what can Chicagoans do to help?</strong></p><ul><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr"><strong>Check on your neighbors, family and friends.</strong> This is especially the case with the elderly and those with disabilities. Make sure they have enough food, medication and any other necessary supplies, such as batteries or backup power. If you think someone in Chicago may need assistance you can&rsquo;t provide (e.g., a warm meal or a ride to a Chicago warming center) call 311.</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr"><strong>Shovel sidewalks and curb ramps.</strong> It&rsquo;s common sense, but the longer someone takes to trudge from point A to point B, the longer they&rsquo;re exposed the elements and the danger from it. When you clear sidewalks and curb ramps, you help everyone get around more quickly and safely, especially those who use mobility devices such as wheelchairs. When sidewalks are deep with snow or ice, people sometimes resort to walking in the street, which presents additional dangers.</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr"><strong>Donate warm clothing to local charities.</strong> It&rsquo;s never too late to donate new or used blankets, coats, gloves, snowpants and other cold weather gear. The Salvation Army, Catholic Charities and clothing donation bins accept clean items in good repair, year round.</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr"><strong>Slow down, look around, be helpful.</strong> Whether you&rsquo;re driving, biking, walking or gazing out the window at the person trying to dig their car out of a snowbank, it never hurts to use that niceness that Midwesterners are known for and lend a hand. &nbsp;</p></li></ul><p><strong>Resources for getting help or helping others</strong></p><p><a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/311.html" target="_blank">311</a>: Call 311 for all requests for assistance within Chicago. The city can offer or otherwise coordinate wellness checks on you, your neighbors, friends or family. You can also learn about transportation options to warming centers. (In an emergency, of course dial 911.)</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/fss/provdrs/serv/svcs/dfss_warming_centers.html" target="_blank">Warming Centers</a>: The Department of Family Support and Services offers a dozen warming centers around Chicago, some specifically for seniors. During the cold snap in early January, the agency <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/fss/provdrs/serv/alerts/2014/jan/extended-hours-for-community-service-center-patrons.html" target="_blank">extended hours</a> at many centers.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/oemc/general/PDF/Cold_Weather_Shelters_Map.pdf" target="_blank">Cold Weather Shelters:</a> The city allows anyone seeking refuge from the cold to go to their closest police or fire station to stay warm. Capacity varies at each building, and oftentimes workers there will help connect people to a shelter or a warming center if needed.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/mayor/snowportal/chicagoshovels.html" target="_blank">Chicago Shovels</a>: This site, run by the city of Chicago, tracks snowplows, allows you to lend a hand to those who need assistance shoveling snow, and offers other apps for winter preparedness.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://webapps1.cityofchicago.org/volunteerregistry/" target="_blank">Emergency Assistance Registry for People with Disabilities or Special Needs</a>: This registry allows Chicagoans with disabilities or other special needs to voluntarily identify themselves as requiring assistance during emergencies. For example, the form notifies first responders that a resident relies on specific medical devices or can&rsquo;t communicate verbally.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.ready.gov/individuals-access-functional-needs" target="_blank">FEMA disaster preparedness for people with disabilities</a>: The Federal Emergency Management Agency provides a helpful kit to prepare for dangerous weather situations.</p><p>As for what the city and others agencies might do if another bout of extreme cold comes our way, Smith said &ldquo;All of Chicago&rsquo;s cold weather emergency plans are a process of evolution.&rdquo; He said changes come from experience (like he blizzard of 2011 prompting <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/new-escape-routes-lake-shore-drive-93621" target="_blank">new turnarounds</a> on Lake Shore Drive), and his department will be reviewing how the city handled this particular emergency and adapt their strategy if necessary. &nbsp;</p><p><em>Curious City tweets <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZCuriousCity" target="_blank">@WBEZCuriousCity</a></em></p></p> Mon, 06 Jan 2014 18:06:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago-warming-centers-options-and-limits-109470 How to survive a Chicago winter http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-12/how-survive-chicago-winter-109295 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Dibs.jpg" style="height: 415px; width: 620px;" title="An example of &quot;parking dibs&quot; on a Chicago street. (Flickr/meryddian)" /></p><p>Chicago has long been dubbed &quot;The City that Works,&quot; come Snowpocalypse or high water.</p><p>Our springs begin late with constant drizzle, melting in to hot summers that end too soon. The crisp bliss of fall is even more agonizingly brief, with winter nipping at November, setting its icy talons by Black Friday, and casting an inescapable grey pallor over the city from December through March.</p><p>Chicagoans then transition into their preferred roles. For example:</p><ul><li>the homebody hermit, resurfacing on New Years Eve after weeks spent in hibernation.</li><li>the dark-puffy-coat-wearer, slogging begrudgingly through the snow alongside identically dressed, equally miserable-looking <a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-3DKZaupZb_8/TdhqbqK4WAI/AAAAAAAAA08/qHwF-xhNBcg/s1600/michelin-man.jpg" target="_blank">michelin men</a>.</li><li>the person who travels to get away from Chicago.</li><li>the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/renee-patten/bicycling-through-chicago_b_1095362.html" target="_blank">superhuman</a>&nbsp;cyclist, who takes pride in the fact that everyone else thinks he or she is &#39;crazy.&#39;</li></ul><p>Low temperatures vary from year to year, usally averaging somewhere between barely tolerable and bitterly excruciating. Still, whether you&#39;re a fear-stricken newcomer to the Midwest or a seasoned Chicagoan already worrying that this winter will smack us <a href="http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?id=9226717" target="_blank">harder than the last</a>, take heart: you can still go outside and have fun.</p><p>This will my fourth Chicago winter, and I&#39;ve learned a great deal since that first <a href="http://www.chicagonow.com/your-doubting-thomas/2011/02/snowmageddon-2011-chicagoans-can-handle-a-little-or-a-lot-of-snow/#image/1" target="_blank">Snowmaggedeon</a>&nbsp;tested my Southern naivety (I used to think that 30 degrees was &quot;cold&quot;) and toughened me up for the years that followed.&nbsp;</p><p>Here are a few tips that I&#39;ve picked up along the way:</p><p><strong>Wear layers upon layers.&nbsp;</strong></p><p>Outsiders are aghast by horror stories of &quot;lake effect&quot; and wind chill; but thankfully, Chicagoans know that protection exists in the form of layers. We also know that many establishments tend to overcompensate for the winter cold by cranking up the heat, meaning that you will be grateful for the lightweight shirt tucked under your other layers that you can strip down to once inside.</p><p>I&#39;m particularly fond of smart button-down shirts under cosy sweaters, hooded parkas or bomber jackets lined with faux fur or sheepskin, floral skirts over wool tights, chunky scarves to shield one&#39;s face from the cold, and soft cashmere cardigans for every holiday party.</p><p>Cotton is a poor choice for winter clothing material due to its high thermal conductivity, so choose synthetic fibers (polyester blends, microfiber, fleece) or wool instead.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Make sure that your boots are snow-resistant.&nbsp;</strong></p><p>When you&#39;re out shopping for that perfect pair of oh-so-fashionable winter boots, remember that sustainability trumps style. Will these chic ankle boots turn my feet into moisture sponges as soon as I step outside? Will these department store boots persevere through months upon months of winter trudging? Will that slender heel get stuck in the snow? Always ask yourself these questions before buying a pair, and look for styles that go at least halfway to your knees.&nbsp;</p><p>Don&#39;t even think about wearing Uggs, either. The Chicago slush will destroy them. (And they went out of style circa 2006.)</p><p><strong>Cover your head and hands.&nbsp;</strong></p><p>Hats and gloves may be superfluous accessories in warmer climates (I see you, ironic hipsters wearing beanies and fingerless mittens at 70 degrees) but not in Chicago. Here, you can use them for their intended purpose and look like an Urban Outfitters model at the same time.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Respect &quot;parking dibs.&quot;</strong></p><p>New to Chicago? Allow me to explain the rules of &quot;parking dibs.&quot;</p><p>During snow season, Chicagoans put various junk items on the street (usually chairs, sometimes large bins or cinder bocks) on their shoveled-out parking spaces to deter other drivers from taking their spot.</p><p>Legend has it that this practice began during the <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/politics/chi-chicagodays-1967blizzard-story,0,1032940.story">Chicago Blizzard of 1967</a>, when 23 inches of snow fell in 29 hours, and cemented its status during&nbsp;the infamous&nbsp;<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago_Blizzard_of_1979" target="_blank">winter of 1979</a>, when almost 90 inches of snow collapsed the CTA. However, according to the Chicago Tribune&#39;s&nbsp;<a href="http://blogs.chicagotribune.com/news_columnists_ezorn/2005/12/no_one_seems_to.html" target="_blank">Eric Zorn</a>, the term &quot;dibs&quot; was first applied in this context by <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1999-01-05/news/9901050044_1_bedford-falls-neighbors-wonderful-life">John Kass in 1999</a>, and has since spread elsewhere.&nbsp;</p><p>Now, &quot;dibs&quot; is called even during the most minor of snow days, prompting many disgruntled neighbors to question the fairness of a tradition not officially sanctioned by the city. More information on the rules of this amusing and baffling saga can be found <a href="http://chicago.straightdope.com/sdc20110203.php" target="_blank">here</a>.</p><p>My two cents? Never move the chair. Just don&#39;t.</p><p><strong>Carry a flask.&nbsp;</strong></p><p>I suggest a good bourbon whiskey or scotch. Sip responsibly for extra warmth.&nbsp;</p><p><b>Go out to stay in.&nbsp;</b></p><p>Your friends may not be as keen to go bar-hopping as they were in June, but the promise of spending all night indoors (and still having a good time!) should be enough to lure them outside for a quick commute. Whether it be a trivia grandslam at your neighborhood pub, a show at the Empty Bottle, an all-night dance party at Smart Bar, or a night of drinking and white elephant gift-giving at your apartment, fun can still be had by all.</p><p>Leave your coat at the door (this is where those layers come in handy!) and rock that ugly Christmas sweater. &#39;Tis the season.&nbsp;</p><p>What are your Chicago winter survival tips?</p><p><em>Leah Pickett writes about popular culture for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/leahkpickett">@leahkpickett</a>.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Wed, 04 Dec 2013 09:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-12/how-survive-chicago-winter-109295 Untitled: Photo of the Day - March 4, 2013 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/photo-day/2013-03/untitled-photo-day-march-4-2013-105879 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/25797736@N00/8523306712/in/pool-32855810@N00/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/POTD_Untitled.jpg" title="Untitled (Flickr/Matthew Lilly)" /></a></div></p> Mon, 04 Mar 2013 10:56:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/photo-day/2013-03/untitled-photo-day-march-4-2013-105879 Let it snow http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-12/let-it-snow-104350 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" height="309" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/flickr%20chad%20magira.jpg" style="float: left;" title="(Flickr/Chad Magiera)" width="414" /></div><p>It is the twelfth of December in the year 2020, and the little girl climbs onto her father&#39;s lap and asks, &quot;Daddy, did you ever see snow?&quot;</p><p>The father laughs.</p><p>&quot;Oh, yes, honey, there used to be lots of snow in Chicago,&quot; he says.</p><p>&quot;What happened?&quot; asks the little girl. &quot;When did it stop?&quot;</p><p>&quot;Well, that&#39;s a tough question to answer,&quot; says the father. &quot;But I&#39;ll try. Seems to me that in the 1990s the winters had started to get a little easier; they weren&#39;t as cold, there wasn&#39;t as much snow, the wind didn&#39;t howl as loudly, and the Santas who stood on street corners could sometimes be seen perspiring and drinking iced tea. More and more people started talking about these mild winters&mdash;but no one really did anything about them.</p><p>&ldquo;And so people in winter started playing golf and jogging and doing stuff in the lake, which used to freeze sometimes because it would get so cold. And people started going to places like Canada and the Swiss Alps, where they still had snow and where it was cold.&rdquo;</p><p>He pauses for a moment in reflection. &quot;In the old days winters used to be roaring indoor fires in things called fireplaces, snowball fights, skating on frozen ponds, sledding down hills covered in snow.&quot;</p><p>&quot;It sounds like the old-fashioned winters were sooooo fun,&quot; the little girl says.</p><p>&ldquo;A lot of it was. They used to make these real pretty sculptures out of ice at the Lincoln Park Zoo. But there were some bad things too, like cars that would be buried for a long time, no places to park, something called frostbite that would make fingers and noses and toes all numb. Sometimes schools would have to close because of the snow and cold.&quot;</p><p>&quot;Schools would be closed!&quot; says the girl.</p><p>&quot;So, Daddy, do you remember what snow looks like? Do you miss it? Do you miss the snow and the cold?&quot;</p><p>The father looks outside. The sun is shining brightly and all is green. He can see his wife and younger son putting out treats for Santa&mdash;a pitcher of lemonade and some chips and salsa&mdash;on a table that sits on the deck of the swimming pool, where some neighborhoods kids are splashing.</p><p>&quot;I do miss it a little. Snow was white and it was beautiful; and sometimes late at night, when the moon was out, it would sparkle on the trees and lawns like a million little stars that had fallen from the sky,&quot; he says, wrapping his arms around his daughter. &quot;And when the temperature would get low it could make you feel really alive and fresh and make you want to hug a pretty little girl really tight so she would never, ever get cold.&quot;</p></p> Wed, 12 Dec 2012 14:47:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-12/let-it-snow-104350 Chicago woman, 83, dies of cold exposure http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-woman-83-dies-cold-exposure-104102 <p><p>Authorities say an 83-year-old Chicago woman was the first cold-related death of the season in Cook County.</p><p>The Cook County Medical Examiner&#39;s Office says a relative found Florence Hawkins unresponsive in her bed. She was pronounced dead at her home on the city&#39;s South Side on Tuesday.</p><p>The medical examiner&#39;s office says an autopsy on Wednesday found Hawkins died of cold exposure and that heart disease was a contributing factor.</p><p>The National Weather Service reports that the low temperature on Tuesday was 17 degrees and Monday night&#39;s low was 23 degrees.</p><p>Authorities say there were at least seven cold-related deaths in Cook County during the cold season of 2011-2012 with the first reported on Dec. 3, 2011.</p></p> Thu, 29 Nov 2012 09:55:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-woman-83-dies-cold-exposure-104102 Preparing for Chicago's first major snowfall of the season http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-01-12/preparing-chicagos-first-major-snowfall-season-95491 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2012-January/2012-01-12/kr_news_020411_chisnow_header.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Some Illinois residents said they were happy to see flakes Thursday as a winter storm dropped the first significant snowfall of the season on the state.</p><p>The abrupt shift in weather came a day after Rockford recorded a record high temperature of 57 degrees, according to the National Weather Service's preliminary temperature figures. Thursday was a different story with the forecast calling for several inches of snow throughout the state.</p><p>Mike Norman, 44, of Evanston, said he was looking forward to the challenge of running in the snow.</p><p>"It's one of my favorite times of year to run. It's clean. It's crisp. It's quiet," Norman said. "It's fun to put footsteps in the fresh snow."</p><p>He co-founded Chicago Endurance Sports, which offers a Winter Warriors program to help runners stay committed to their training and teach them about the right gear for winter. But so far this season, the Winter Warriors haven't had a chance to do battle with the weather.</p><p>"We had people out last night running in shorts," Norman said Thursday, a day after temperatures reached above 50 degrees.</p><p>The staff at Snowstar Winter Sports Park in northwest Illinois anticipates a big weekend. Teresa Kolls of Snowstar said the park makes its own snow, but the park got a late start, opening its ski runs the day after Christmas. Kolls said the snowfall will fill in the trails between the ski runs, turning the park into a "winter wonderland" and bringing out crowds.</p><p>"This is the first real snowfall we've had. It definitely helps us," Kolls said.</p><p>Cook County's forest preserves are offering sledding, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing at a number of locations.</p><p>As Chicagoans prepared for their <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/chicago-braces-seasons-first-snowstorm-95481" target="_blank">first significant snowfall of 2012</a>, <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> wanted to pass along some information that might help get Chicagoans ready.</p><p>WBEZ reporter Jennifer Brandel, <em>Worldview</em> host Jerome McDonnell, WBEZ's Richard Steele joined the show to offer their advice to survive the season's first winter storm.</p></p> Thu, 12 Jan 2012 15:37:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-01-12/preparing-chicagos-first-major-snowfall-season-95491