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Midwest Digs Out From Winter Storm

January 3, 1999

CHICAGO (AP) _ Chicagoans dug out from their biggest snowstorm in more than 30 years Sunday while thousands of already delayed travelers across the Midwest waited for airlines to get their planes de-iced and back in the air.

About 22 inches of snow had piled up from Chicago across northern Indiana as the storm spread snow, ice, slush and rain from the Missouri Valley to the East Coast.

``I think Old Man Winter can just go away now and give us 80-degree weather. He made his point,″ Karen Erickson said after finding her car covered by a snow drift in Fond du Lac, Wis., 60 miles north of Milwaukee.

At least 23 deaths had been blamed on the storm, 10 of them in Illinois.

Chicago’s Lakeshore Drive reopened and pavement was clean on many other main arteries. However, public and Catholic school classes were canceled for Monday.

``It’s going real well considering that 24 hours ago we were in the second-worst snowstorm in Chicago history,″ said Terry Levin, a spokesman for the city, which put more than 700 pieces of snow-fighting equipment on the streets. The city’s record is 23 inches, set in 1967.

However, U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, who’s running against Mayor Richard Daley in February, complained that crews concentrated on neighborhoods with more white residents.

``This is not about politics,″ Daley responded.

The city’s delay in plowing away the 18.8 inches that fell in 1979 was blamed for Jane Byrne’s upset victory over incumbent Mayor Michael Bilandic in that year’s Democratic primary.

The ice and blinding, wind-driven snow created havoc for air travelers through the entire weekend.

At Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, the nation’s busiest, United, American and most other airlines canceled the bulk of their flights Saturday. And on Sunday _ expected to be one of the busiest travel days of the year _ United canceled 60 percent of its flights out of Chicago and American canceled at least half, according to officials at the airport’s two largest carriers.

Sherri Gilbert waited in a line the length of two football fields at O’Hare’s United terminal. She had been trying to get home to Springfield, Mo., from Portland, Maine, since Friday night and her chances of making a flight Sunday were grim.

``I won’t get through this line before my flight leaves,″ said Gilbert, one of the lucky ones who got a hotel room near O’Hare Saturday night. ``I told my husband one more day and I’m going to have to go shopping in Chicago.″

The effects of Chicago’s woes spread far beyond the city.

``Everyone wants to go to Chicago to get somewhere else,″ said Kathy Tremmel of Harlan, Iowa, who was stuck at Omaha’s Eppley Airfield trying to catch a connecting flight in Chicago to take her to London.

Indianapolis International Airport closed overnight for the first time in 20 years. Milwaukee’s Mitchell International Airport reopened Sunday after being shut down overnight.

Flight cancellations at Detroit Metropolitan Airport left travelers sacked out in booths at Mike & Pat’s Bar & Deli _ which advertised ``Best view of the snow inside the airport″ _ while others slept in an airport mezzanine. The airport doled out about 2,000 pillows and 2,200 blankets, airport spokesman Mike Conway said.

``It was like one big pajama party,″ said Donna Brigman. She and her 13-year-old daughter returned to Detroit on Saturday from a Florida vacation _ they swam with dolphins in temperatures in the 80s _ but couldn’t find a way home to Ypsilanti, just 20 miles away.

The 10 to 15 inches of snow that blanketed the Detroit metropolitan area was the most from a winter storm since Jan. 6, 1994, the National Weather Service said.

A 130-mile stretch of Interstate 65 in northwestern Indiana was reopened Sunday after being closed for about 20 hours, but 10 cities and 44 of the state’s 92 counties still banned unnecessary travel. Drifts more than 2 feet high closed the South Shore Railroad, which carries over 12,000 daily commuters from northwestern Indiana to Chicago.

``The roads were like ice,″ said John Rawlings, who spent the night with 200 other travelers at Faith Baptist Church near Lafayette, Ind., after his van slid off I-65. ``The wind just picked it up and put it in the ditch.″

On Sunday, the storm spread ice on parts of the Northeast. Ice was blamed for a 50-car pileup on New York’s Grand Central Parkway, and 22 cars and a truck were caught in a chain-reaction wreck on I-80 in New Jersey.

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