The Snowpocalypse

February 11, 2011

Last week Chicago suffered its greatest snowstorm since 1967.  High winds and thunder snow (no kidding) made the event seem apocalyptic.  The two day accumulation total was over 20”!

At the height of the storm, my wife went into labor with our first child.  Fortunately, we had taken the precaution of getting a hotel room near the hospital and parked in a parking garage.  The story of our trip to the hospital was therefore much less dramatic than the hundreds of commuters who tried to take Lake Shore Drive home for the evening.

Unfortunately, the story of those stranded commuters dominated the national headlines coming out of Chicago.  Elsewhere in the city, the Chicago Transit Authority was still running near full capacity.  The midwife that delivered my daughter actually took the bus from her home to the hospital, because her car was snowed in.  The bus was right on schedule.  Thank you CTA.

Although most arterial streets were safely cleared and the public transportation continued to run throughout the storm, the city officials were roundly criticized for the apparently uncontrollable conditions on the Drive.  I think many civil engineers relate.  Most of the time, everything works just fine, and Mother Nature is usually rebuffed.  Once in a while, the elements overwhelm the infrastructure.  Sharp criticism can follow, but that’s just part of the job.

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