The Chicago Blizzard of 1979 was a major blizzard that affected northern Illinois and north-west Indiana, United States on Saturday, January 13 – Sunday, January 14, 1979. 16.5 inches (41.9 cm) of snow fell on January 13 alone, setting a new record for snow in one calendar day in Chicago. By the end of January 14, 18.8 inches (47.8 cm) of snow had fallen. The cold weather and snowfall throughout the rest of January and February resulted in frozen tracks throughout the Chicago 'L' and Metra systems. Commuters crowded onto CTA buses, quickly overwhelming capacity, resulting in bus commutes usually taking 30 to 45 minutes taking 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. Deployment of plows was significantly delayed and when they finally appeared they struggled to keep up with the snowfall. Much of the snow remained unremoved throughout the next 2 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 political rival in the Democratic primary (who had previously worked with Bilandic in the Daley administration and been fired by Bilandic when the two could not get along), capitalized on this and went on to defeat Bilandic in the February 27 primary.