City dropped ball on blizzard response

By Editorial Board

The city of Chicago was smothered by 20.2 inches of snow during the blizzard of Feb. 1–2. Despite Chicagoans being no strangers to severe winter weather and an early storm warning, the snow managed to shut down most of the city for three days. City officials knew the storm was coming and did not sufficiently prepare, and the city suffered for it.

The Lake Shore Drive snafu is a prime example of this lack of preparation. During past, milder snow storms, the city had plows and salt trucks ready at the first hint of snowfall. This time, when we had an advanced blizzard warning for several days saying this might be the worst Chicago storm since 1967, these sorts of precautionary measures were nowhere to be found. Hundreds of vehicles—including Chicago Transit Authority buses—were stranded on Lake Shore Drive overnight when the snow made travel impossible. If the city wasn’t prepared to handle the severity of the weather conditions, Lake Shore Drive should have been closed earlier.

However, the drivers who were stuck on Lake Shore Drive also share some of the blame. They were aware of the impending blizzard, and it was their choice to take that route despite that insight. Simply because city officials kept the road open didn’t mean people had to take it.

Other examples of the city’s failure to properly prepare for or respond to the blizzard remain apparent a week later. Many side streets remain unplowed. Pedestrian travel is difficult in many places because of unshoveled sidewalks and large mounds of snow blocking street crossings. Public transit continues to run slowly, and many riders must brave city traffic while waiting for buses on the street because of snow-buried sidewalks and curbs.

Despite the city’s difficulties, the CTA deserves commendation for its performance during the blizzard. It kept buses and trains running throughout the storm, allowing people to reach their homes safely without taking any driving risks.

Columbia administrators also deserve praise for taking the initiative to close buildings early enough to allow students and employees to get home before the worst of the storm, and for keeping them closed until safe travel was possible.

On the other hand, the rest of the city has no excuse for its poor performance. With all the time the city had to prepare, snow removal and precautionary measures should have gone much more smoothly.