Walking through the 2011 Blizzard, Chicago: a photo storyPosted: February 3, 2011
I left my house around 8pm to go watch Groundhog Day, Clueless, and Sixteen Candles at a friends apartment. I was compelled by some wayward adventurous spirit and amused myself with thoughts of Laura Ingalls Wilder upon setting out. If she could walk a half-mile in the snow to school every day, I could walk 1.6 miles in the snow easy. “Screw all this hype about the storm – the last couple of storms have been huge let downs!” was my thinking…
I did bust out my black stuffed-down -sleeping-bag of a jacket, for the first time this winter. Just in case.
I exited through my back alleyway to check out the scenary and the wind hit me hard in the face with snow-sand. My hood kept getting blown back so it was necessary for me to hold it in place with one hand. My hat and scarf were not enough – and the part where I breathed into the scarf turned to ice later any way. Not only was the wind hitting me in the face with sharp evil snow, but it was also trying to undress me: the wind was strong enough to undo my snap buttons, and later, the bottom of my zipper. I stopped at the greek Cafe Restaurant on Lawrence to redo my zipper.
At one point, after sliding backwards a couple of steps, I held onto a pole. It was during this walk that I perfected my squatting-while-walking-into-the-wind-technique. I am quite proud of it. It took me about 45 minutes to walk a distance that normally took 30 minutes. Easy.
Full of movie magic, sugar and alcohol, I emerge 6 hours later. Lawrence is no longer a street in Chicago, but a foreign world of white. The snow storm gods had proven their power and I would be wise to show reverence.
Despite sweating on the way to my destination, I borrowed a fleece. My 90 minute walk back was comfortable and slow – my zipped up jacket restricts leg movement, but the wind had died down so small steps were ok.
Rahm’s political campaign sign was one of the brightest things out there that night:
I borrowed a point-and-shoot from a friend, but the cold temperatures, and my accidental minute of recording video, lowered the battery to critical. This is where my trusty cell phone camera came in. I would warm up the camera in my breast pocket while I used my cell phone.
This is the one time I assume it is ok to trespass on private property.
I had expected the world to shut down completely – my local alderman, forever the fear monger, implied people would die from this storm in a recent alert. I expected the entire walk to look like this:
That was not the case. Sure, the wind made these snow swirls that I couldn’t capture on camera, but nothing was pushing me or causing me to slide like earlier. The temperature was a comfortable 20 degrees, and the streets were peaceful.
I saw a CTA bus heading East on Lawrence. I saw a cop making a patrol in a regular vehicle, and two other police officers in larger truck-like vehicles. I saw a snow plow or a salt truck every 20 minutes or so. (Private plow company?, city plowing at Lawrence & Western, salt trucks)
At a 7-11, the only business open at this hour, I got some hot tea. I awoke the middle-eastern attendant by banging on the glass window. He was sleeping sitting up. I amused him by being out at this hour, and I got the tea for free.
While taking pictures of Lincoln Square, I thought I saw people breaking into a storefront. I hid, then sought advice from an obscured gay man in stopped car before making the call. I felt silly – I am sure the CPD had other things to do. And who knows what I saw, with all the swirls. I didn’t deviate off Lawrence to investigate.
I saw approximately 20 other people out walking that evening – one went to an ATM in a drive-way.
The Chicago Transportation Department did a great job of keeping major thoroughfares drivable – proving useful for the occasional ambulance. Cabbies also loved the roads – I saw roughly 5 on my walk home:
I feared crossing this bridge. In my walk to my friend’s residence, walking over this bridge exposed me to terrible gusts of wind.
I had nothing to fear.
I live off a side street, so of course it was not shoveled. (Still isn’t today). See my trail in the almost knee-deep snow:
What a great idea, using construction equipment to move snow! My street could use it:
I showed that storm, and Groundhog Day, who was boss.
Here is my victory face: