Chicago Learns From Past Snow Storms

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Chicago is good at handling big snowfalls — officials learned from huge blizzards in 1967 and 1979. But that doesn't mean there aren't challenges for residents. There are winter parking bans and violators face tickets and towing fees. It's also illegal to save a parking spot once a car is dug out.

CHERYL CORLEY: Im Cheryl Corley in Chicago. This city didn't get anywhere near the amount of snow that slammed the East Coast, but it was more than enough for Carolyn Feck(ph) to grab her neighbors shovel and try to clear out her car.

Ms. CAROLYN FECK: There was probably a good foot of drift. It was all drift.

CORLEY: More than a foot of snow had fallen in a 24-hour period, a February record for Chicago. And the moment snow is even mentioned in a forecast, the city starts getting ready.

Mr. MATT SMITH (Spokesperson, Chicago Streets and Sanitation Department): We say when the snow hits the road, we know our people are going to be there, and were going to get the job done.

CORLEY: Matt Smith, the spokesman for Chicago Streets and Sanitation Department, says more than 275 snow trucks plowed Chicago streets. The city learned from huge blizzards in 1967 and in 1979 that left cars in snow graveyards and sent a mayor, who botched snow removal, packing. The result, a set of winter parking bans. From December to April, many major streets are off limits from 3 a.m. to 7 a.m., whether theres snow or not.

Mr. SMITH: So that the city doesnt come to a standstill.

CORLEY: And if you park there...

Mr. SMITH: You will be towed and impounded, and we are merciless on that.

CORLEY: The cost for violators? A $50 ticket, a $150 towing fee, plus a $10 daily storage fee. The other restriction bans parking on even more streets if theres more than two inches of snow on the ground.

(Soundbite of engine revving)

For drivers like Stephanie Fatackis(ph), its the neighborhood traditions that count most. Shes trying to get her car out of a tight spot she wedged into overnight.

Ms. STEPHANIE FATACKIS: Sometimes you get lucky, where you kind of try to follow the tire tracks of another person to get into a spot.

CORLEY: Next, if somebody is stuck, help them out. Fatackis did get a push from a few folks walking down the street. And lastly, theres the tradition for some of treating a space theyve cleared like its private real estate - never mind that its illegal.

Lenny Bracey, who was clearing the street outside his home, said people leave anything to mark the spot.

Mr. LENNY BRACEY: Put their little carts and crates and stuff in here. And so, you know, you don't want to do that, because then they end up people fighting, swinging at each other and everything.

CORLEY: And thats why Bracey was shoveling enough spots for his neighbors, too.

Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago.

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