CHICAGO (AP) — A heavy wet snow on Wednesday brought a cruel end to a
fleeting spring-like thaw, forcing residents around the winter-weary
Midwest and Northeast to once again fire up snow blowers, hoist shovels
and slog through a sloppy and treacherous commute.
Tens of thousands
of homes and businesses in northern Illinois and Indiana lost power, and a
few hundred flights were canceled at Chicago's airports. The city, where
streets and sidewalks had only just dried out for the first time in
months, got about 6 inches of snow. Heavy winds whipped it into a blinding
wall that even blotted out the lit-up skyline for a few hours before dawn
and left trees glazed with gloppy gobs of white.
Chicago to Buffalo, NY, were left wondering whether the start of spring
was really just a week away.
"I think spring
is buried under all the snow and I'm just ready for it to go," said Kelly
Smith, huddling with her husband under an awning in downtown South Bend,
Ind., waiting for a ride. "I came out this morning with no coat on and
it's snowing again. I think Mother Nature just has some attitude."
was moving east, hitting the Great Lakes in Ohio, Pennsylvania, upstate
New York and parts of New England. Some places, including Vermont where 2
feet was forecast, could see the heaviest single snowfall of the winter
before the storm dissipates over Canada.
warned that as much as 9 inches of snow could fall in parts of
southeastern Michigan by Wednesday evening, with 4 to 8 inches in Detroit.
Hundreds of schools were closed there and drivers traversing slippery
roads fell victim to rear-end collisions, ended up in ditches or had other
snow-related mishaps. AAA Michigan said it alone responded to 900 calls
for help, mostly in the southern part of the state.
The picture was
similar in upstate New York, where hundreds of schools called off classes
after the weather service warned that a blizzard with winds of up to 50
mph could paralyze the area from western New York to the Adirondacks.
Ed Szymanski was
just finishing his first pass with the shovel outside a Buffalo post
office when he declared that he'd had enough of winter.
"Too long," he
said of the season as snow hit his eyeglasses and melted into droplets.
"It was great yesterday. I washed my car!" he said. Buffalo got up to 50
degrees on Tuesday.
storm was helping to edge snowfall totals toward the top of the record
southeastern Michigan could come close to breaking a 133-year-old record.
The storm will likely move the Detroit area close to the seasonal snow
total of 93.6 inches set in 1880-1881, according to the weather service.
already been buried by 75.5 inches of snow this winter — the fourth most
on record dating back to 1884-1885, according to the weather service.
Wednesday's snow pushed the seasonal total into third place, ahead of the
77.0 inch total from 1969-1970.
After a few days
of tantalizingly warmer temperatures, the return to snow-covered streets
and trees was a jarring sight. Workers in downtown Chicago grunted as they
heaved slush with well-worn shovels. Others rushed to return sidewalk
signs warning pedestrians of ice falling from skyscrapers.
A tour boat
company that ferries sightseers along the Chicago River even announced
they were delaying this weekend's planned rollout of vessels from winter
storage because they were encased in 20-inch-thick ice. Temperatures
Friday are forecast in the 50s.
But there were
some gluttons for winter punishment reveling in another blitz of squalling
One of them was
bookstore owner Ken Peczkowski of South Bend, Ind., who was happy to be
out shoveling again.
"It makes me feel
alive," he said. "Summer just drags me down. Winter, I feel like I have to
fight for every day of life, and that's great. It's good exercise."
he remembers worse winters, including the blizzard of '78, when the city
received a record 172 inches of snow.
"We made it
through that, too," he said. "I think we were open every day."
Others have been
searching at least for a feeling of spring, including some who stopped to
check out the house plants and cheery garden items at Jeff Gatewood's
nursery in the Indianapolis suburb of Fishers.
so much pent-up energy, it's going to make for a crazy spring," Gatewood
said. "Spring fever is really going to be pretty high this year."