1979 Chicago blizzard
Category 4 "Crippling" (RSI: 14.42)
|Formed||January 13, 1979|
|Dissipated||January 14, 1979|
|Maximum snowfall or ice accretion||21 inches (53.34 cm)|
|Damage||More than $1 billion USD|
|Power outages||Across the city|
|Casualties||5 fatalities, 15 injuries|
|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 of snowfall in the two-day period. Only two to four inches of snow was expected but by the end of Sunday, January 14, the depth of snow on the ground peaked at 29 inches. The blizzard lasted for a total of 38 hours. At its peak, wind gusts reached speeds of 39 miles 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.
- Wagner, James A. (1979). <0499:WACOJ>2.0.CO;2 "Weather and circulation of January 1979: widespread record cold with heavy snowfall in the Midwest". Monthly Weather Review. 107: 499–506. Bibcode:1979MWRv..107..499W. doi:10.1175/1520-0493(1979)107<0499:WACOJ>2.0.CO;2.
- Benzkofer, Stephan (January 5, 2014). "1979 Blizzard was Debacle". Chicago Tribune. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 15, 2016.
- Changnon, Stanley A., Jr.; Changnon, David; Stone, Phyllis (1980). Illinois Third Consecutive Severe Winter: 1978-1979 (PDF) (Report). Illinois State Water Survey. Retrieved 25 November 2015.
- "2011 Blizzard Storm Total Snowfall Adjusted & In-Depth Look at Chicago's Top 4 Big Snows". National Weather Service. National Weather Service. Retrieved September 15, 2016.
- "Chicago elects Byrne". Bangor Daily News. Bangor, Me. April 4, 1979. p. 1. Retrieved June 17, 2012 – via Google News Archive.
- "Chicago elects Byrne". Bangor Daily News. Bangor, Me. April 4, 1979. p. 10. Retrieved June 17, 2012 – via Google News Archive.