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It was touch-and-go with the ice and snow

  • Written by Bob Rakow

PAGE-1-wuth-weather-story-072Black ice, rather than snow, was the culprit Monday morning when approximately 45 cars and trucks were involved in a chain reaction pileup on southbound Interstate 294 near Hickory Hills.

The accident was the most significant event related to a weekend snowstorm that dropped more than a foot of snow on our area.

Aside from the crash, towns in the Reporter’s coverage area survived the season’s first storm with few difficulties, save for a few complaints from residents wondering why their streets weren’t cleared sooner or more thoroughly, officials said.

The tollway crash reportedly began when someone ran into the back of a state trooper's car that was pulled over for another accident, officials said.

The trooper was not injured, but traffic started to slow and three semis jackknifed, causing the accident, officials said.

A total of 11 people were injured in the crash, which occurred around 9:20 a.m., state police said. None of the injuries were serious.

A total of 16 crash reports were taken involving 45 vehicles. Of the 45 vehicles, 20 were towed from the tollway. Eight people were transported to Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, and one individual refused treatment, state police reported.

The Roberts Park Fire Protection District and several other fire departments responded to the crash, which stretched from mile marker 18¾ to mile marker 18 in the southbound lanes, officials said.

Chris Perry, battalion chief for the North Palos Fire Protection District, said ice was the primary cause of the accident.

“It was icy up there. It was pretty slick up there,” Perry said “We had a lot of vehicles smashed into one another.”

Perry said he “amazed” there were no major injuries as a result of the crash.

“We were kind of surprised that we had no extrications,” Perry said.

Nineteen inches of snowfall fell from late Saturday night into Sunday in the fifth-largest blizzard to ever hit Chicago area.

But the communities within the Reporter’s coverage area handled the season’s first significant storm with relative ease, officials said.

“We have to congratulate our public works department,” said Chicago Ridge Village Clerk George Schleyer, who lauded crews for keeping up with the storm.

Schleyer admitted he may have spoken too soon when it came to the winter weather.

“It was funny, the mayor and I were talking about what a great year it was for public works and the salt budget,” he said.

Still, the village remains ahead of the game since the first significant storm did not happen until February.

The battle against the elements went as good as could be expected in Oak Lawn, said Village Manager Larry Deetjen.

“All hands were on deck,” he said, referring to the public works crews who took to the streets late Saturday night. “We’re running around-the-clock shifts.”

“Most people have been very understanding,” he said of residents.

The village plowed major thoroughfares and snow routes first and got to other streets later on.

“You prioritize,” he said, adding that the village began plowing alleys Monday so garbage trucks could access them beginning on Tuesday.

Village crews were to begin plowing cul-de-sacs and taking a second pass at other areas throughout the week, Deetjen said.

He added that the absence of weekday traffic and an existing ground cover of ice and snow made plowing easier on Sunday.

Garbage collection was cancelled on Monday and resumed Tuesday with Republic Services employing a holiday schedule.

Village crews cleared all but the top level of the commuter parking deck in preparation for Monday morning, Deetjen said.