Chicago is no stranger to snow. I always feel a bit sad if we don’t have any snow by Christmas, and it is common to get some snow by Thanksgiving. (I’ve lived in the Chicago area all my life.)
What seems to be changing is the amount of snow we get in Chicago in the last few years. It has been common to get an inch or so of snow quite frequently from December through February and it would melt within a week and never really accumulate.
In the last three years we have had higher accumulations of snow because when it snows we get more than an inch and it doesn’t melt before the next snow. Snowfall of more than a few inches has been happening several times a winter instead of one big snow which used to be the norm.
What this means is we need to be prepared for big snow more often and here are some tips that get my family through this time.
1. Plan Ahead: You can depend on sloppy weather in Chicago so keeping some things in your car all the time can make a big difference. A battery starter, road salt, a mini shovel, extra gloves, de-icer, windshield washer fluid and an ice scraper are all helpful if you’re stuck in the snow or cold. I also recommend a cell phone recharger that is battery powered just in case. If you have a choice between cars, the best is 4-wheel drive in the snow, followed by front wheel drive and if you can avoid a rear wheel drive car on the snow day, even with traction control, avoid it.
2. If you hear that a blizzard is scheduled for the week, make a quick trip to the store or to any errands you anticipate needing things from in the next few days. It will be very time consuming to get around, so minimize your time on the road later and stock up now. This includes food, pet food, medications and a few DVDs or a good book to keep entertained while stuck at home.
3. Check that cell phones are charged, everyone has hats and gloves and try to leave extra time when traveling. Expect that you will need to double travel times in some cases if there is a lot of snow on the ground.
4. Keep up with the shoveling. If you park your car on the street you may need to dig out several times to actually get the car uncovered. Same for your driveway if you have one. Many people prefer gas powered snow-blowers because of their ability to effortlessly move large quantities of snow, but if the level of snow is higher than the intake for the machine, it won’t work. Getting out there to clear snow before it piles up too high can be crucial if you expect more than 3-4 inches. We actually shovel the snow at my house, but being a Chicagoan, that may just be because I think it’s fun and good exercise.
5. If you have a sled or cross-country skis enjoy the snow!