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1979 Chicago blizzard facts for kids

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Chicago blizzard of 1979
Category 4 "Crippling" (RSI: 14.42)
34 011579 HP street after blizzard.jpg
53rd Street in Hyde Park after the blizzard
Type Blizzard
Winter storm
Formed January 13, 1979
Dissipated January 14, 1979
Lowest pressure Unknown
Maximum snowfall or ice accretion 21 inches (53 cm)
Damage More than $1 billion USD
Power outages Across the city
Areas affected Northern Illinois,
Northwest Indiana, U.S.

The Chicago blizzard of 1979 was a major blizzard that affected northern Illinois and northwest Indiana on January 13–14, 1979. It was one of the largest Chicago snowstorms in history at the time, with 21 inches (53 cm) of snowfall in the two-day period. Only 2 inches (5.1 cm) to 4 inches (10 cm) of snow was expected but by the end of Sunday, January 14, the depth of snow on the ground peaked at 29 inches (74 cm). The blizzard lasted for a total of 38 hours. At its peak, wind gusts reached speeds of 39 miles (63 km) per hour. Five people died during the blizzard, with approximately 15 others seriously injured due to conditions created by the storm. One of the five deaths came when a snowplow driver went berserk, hitting 34 cars and ramming a man.

O'Hare Airport was closed and all flights were grounded for 96 hours, from January 13 to 15. The cold weather and snowfall throughout the rest of January and February resulted in frozen tracks throughout the Chicago 'L' system. Consequently, commuters overwhelmed the capacity of CTA buses, causing bus commutes that normally would have taken 30 to 45 minutes to take up to several hours. To avoid huge snowdrifts in the streets, the overcrowded buses were obliged to take numerous detours, adding additional time to the commute.

After the storm

Snow remained on the ground until March 6, a full fifty-one days. Deployment of plows was significantly delayed, and when they finally appeared they struggled to keep up with the snowfall. Much of the snow remained unmoved throughout the next two months, causing ongoing public transit delays and significant problems with trash collection. The city's inadequate response to the blizzard was blamed primarily on mayor Michael Bilandic, who had assumed the post after the 1976 death of Richard J. Daley. Newspaper articles at the time blasted Bilandic. Jane Byrne, Bilandic's main opposition in the Democratic primary, capitalized on this and defeated Bilandic in the February 27 primary, eventually becoming the first female mayor of Chicago.

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