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Storm ranks 3rd in Chicago history; hazards remain

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011 8:23 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011 11:24 a.m. CDT

The snow might be done in the Tri-Cities, but what now ranks as the third-greatest snowfall in Chicago history will continue to be a problem for many.

Gino Izzi, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, lists three significant hazards that remain – blowing snow, dangeous wind chills, and what he calls the "biggest threat," shoveling.

The official Chicago total for the storm is 20.2 inches, ranking it behind only two other storms – blizzards in 1967 (23.0 inches) and 1999 (21.6 inches).

Preliminary local storm reports at the National Weather Service listed St. Charles' snowfall at 20.0 inches.

"The snow is over; Kane County is done with accumulated snow," Izzi said. "At this point, the main hazard is going to be blowing and drifting snow."

The temperature will be an issue. The low for tonight is now forecast to be 18 degrees below zero, and the National Weather Service's blizzard warning suggests wind chills might dip to -40 tonight. The conditions will make shoveling difficult, and Izzi said 43 people died as a result of heart attacks caused by shoveling in 1999.

"If you are going to shovel, even if you are in great condition, take frequent breaks," Izzi said. "Being so cold outside, you sweat, and you don't realize how much you are exerting yourself. ... It's kind of the deceptive killer that people don't think about."

The warning continues to urge people to "stay home and not travel ... as doing so will put your life at risk." Other warnings issued by the weather service have identified the storm as "life-threatening." Izzi said it's important that people realize the severity of the storm, and that even with such strong warnings, there are many who are trapped on the roadways.

"There are hundreds of people being pulled out of their cars on Lake Shore Drive," he said. "Yes, there are people who need the warning."

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