Random Thoughts on the Blizzard of 2011 — The Aftermath

By Edward M. Bury, APR, aka The PRDude

It’s over, except for the haphazard mounds of snow and some sore muscles from shoveling what is on record as the third largest snowfall in Chicago.  Some interesting human behavior can be chronicled following a weather-driven event like the blizzard that hit Chicago and much of the country Tuesday and Wednesday.  Want some proof?  Note the images below.

 

I shoveled and plowed this myself!

Neighbors helping neighbors to secure a valued parking space.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are some random thoughts and observations.  Note to my friends in warm weather climates:  Don’t gloat over our misery, and I won’t gloat the next time you have to cope with a hurricane, heat wave or earthquake.

The Instant Snow Community. Within hours after the final snowflake, heck while snow was still falling, my neighbors and I were out in force. Shoveling sidewalks, around cars, stairs and gangways, which is what we call the walkway between houses.  People I’ve never met, never seen on the street — and we’ve lived here 10-plus years — talked to each other while shoveling or traversing the sidewalks and streets to get to one of the few retailers opened.

This community spirit will carry over to tomorrow’s commute on the rapid transit train we call  the “el,” short for elevated.  Those of us heading back to work by train or bus will commiserate about the amount of snow we moved, and all will be well. We’re kindred spirits.  Then, reality will set in.  The trains and buses will be late and crowded.  Tempers will flare and lead to pushing for a space or seat.  Harsh words will follow.  I know this will happen because I’ve lived through the two larger snowfalls.

Parking Dibs: A Chicago Tradition. Reportedly, this practice takes place in other cities, but here it’s a long-standing practice.  It goes like this: After a significant snow, like the one we just experienced, or an even relatively minor snow event, those with cars who park on the street can “claim” a spot if they shovel it out.  They mark the “claim” with all sorts of stuff: Lawn furniture.  Sawhorses.  Kids toys.  Planks of wood hoisted on buckets.  And other creative stuff.  One of our newspaper columnists even claims to offer dibs guidelines.  The practice is illegal, since the City owns the streets. But it’s tolerated.  Violators face penalties, including vandalism to their vehicle.  I even heard of one violator having his car covered with water on a frigid night; the result, as you can imagine, was not pretty.

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Snow Throwers. When I learned of the pending blizzard, I did not fear the aftermath.  Even living on a corner lot, which includes a 125-foot stretch of sidewalk on the east side, I had a secret weapon. Actually, it’s a 5 hp Airens snow thrower.  Self propelled, this vintage machine was recently tuned up and ready for any amount of snow.  So I thought.  The tires on my trusty machine spun like a car on a snow-covered street, making my efforts to clear the walk much more challenging than anticipated.  I had to shovel a path by hand, then follow up with the Airens.  My neighbors with their light-weight kiddie-type snow throwers must have been laughing at me.

The Blizzard of 2011 dominated news coverage, as it should.  Chicago officially got 20.2 inches this week; and, for the record, I lived through the first and second snowiest storms on record.  Viewers of TV newscasts got reports from reporters standing adjacent to our expressways, reports on people stranded in their cars, reports of good will and even heroism.  And, unfortunately, this monster storm has claimed lives.

But those of us who made it through the storm must carry on with our lives, albeit with a little more caution.  Bob Dylan summed up what’s happening around here, inadvertently, in a song called “You Ain’t Going Nowhere. “

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