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Anyone remember the Blizzard of ’79?

By Amanda on February 3, 2011


Yesterday neighborhoods were surprisingly alive by mid-day, since everyone stayed home from work and apparently wanted to play in the snow. I hear downtown was eerily empty, but in Logan Square kids were getting carted around with sleds with ropes, and it was quite fun to finally put on the winter boots and climb over 3-foot-tall piles of snow to get around the sidewalks.

Let’s check out some video of the infamous blizzard of ’79. I love that I found that the well-practiced tradition of putting chairs in the parking spot that you’ve dug out was going on back then, too.

Can we say that the city dealt better with this blizzard than that one? In ’79 the city was not prepared to deal with such a downfall, and streets went unplowed for days. The CTA decided to keep running and use the streetcars as plows, but the engines ended up taking in all the snow which caused electrical and mechanical damage to motors and brakes. On top of that, excessive salt thrown on the highways damaged trains near them, and within weeks half the rush hour trains were out of commission. Ten-minute rides were taking 40 minutes.

Many blamed Mayor Michael Bilandic for the chaos, and some say he ordered the CTA trains to skip over West-side stops to prioritize the transport of suburbanites. This video below from Mediaburn Archive has a spoof commercial with a woman saying, “City Hall doesn’t work. I work!”

Luckily it looks like one day after our 2011 blizzard, the “City that Works” is working now. Or at least I am!

— Amanda Scotese


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