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Jeff Vorva's Im-PRESS-ions: A snowstorm to Dye for

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Jeffs Col Impressions

OK, after the recent Super Bowl snowfall that blasted the Chicago area, you probably don’t want to think about snow.

But coming up Saturday is the 25th anniversary of the snowstorm that massacred the Chicago area on St. Valentine’s Day.

For those who don’t remember the details, this Los Angeles Times file story had a breathless headline: “Howling Snowstorm Paralyzes Chicago Traffic.”

It was followed by a dramatic lead – “A howling, blinding snowstorm blew into the Windy City paralyzing air traffic, reducing rush hour auto traffic to a crawl and stranding couples out on the town to celebrate Valentine's Day.

“At one point early in the evening, weather gauges were recording snow falling at an inch an hour with 7 inches on the ground. Snow plows were powerless to keep streets clear of the accumulating snow, and forecasters described conditions for the rest of the night as unpredictable with more than a foot of snow possible by morning.

“O'Hare International Airport closed at about 7:30 p.m. when an American Airlines jet bound for Zurich slid off the one open runway as it attempted to take off. None of the 146 passengers and crew were injured.

“Air traffic was not the only problem for commuters. At least one commuter train derailed as it attempted to leave Union Station.

“Expressways and surface streets were still crowded more than three hours after the evening rush is normally over. The ride from O'Hare to downtown, normally a 30- to 45-minute trip during rush hour, took up to three hours.

“Traffic at major expressway exits was backed up more than two miles, and some streets were blocked by abandoned and stalled cars and multi-vehicle accidents.’’

OK, that’s enough of that. We just went through some of that a couple of Sundays ago.

The fact that it happened on a holiday has many people remembering what they were doing that day. If you are 30 or older, you probably have some stories to share from that day. Most of them will probably be tales of misery.

As for me?

While it was howling and blinding outside, I was inside a warm, dry banquet room talking to a man whose family has a long history with golf. Some people were cursing a blue streak stuck in traffic for hours on highways and I was trying lobster for the first time in my life.

I was working with the Northwest Herald based in Crystal Lake and the Dye family decided to invest some of their money in a nearly golf course – the Golf Club of Illinois in Algonquin.

Even casual golfers know the name Pete Dye, who has designed courses all over the world and some of them have unique names such as Crooked Stick and Ruffled Feathers.

Television usually makes things look bigger than they actually are but anyone who had been to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are usually amazed at just how big the infield is. It’s so big, it has an 18-hole golf course inside of it called the Brickyard Crossing. It was designed by Pete Dye.

Pete’s oldest son, Perry has a nice resume, too. He worked on tons of courses and helped oversee the family business branch out overseas. Perry has been a major factor in bringing the Dye Designs brand to Taiwan, Thailand, Japan, Korea, Australia, Austria, Spain, Germany, Brazil, Mexico, Guatemala, Panama and Honduras.

 But on Feb. 14, 1990, he hung out in Algonquin on a historically snowy night.

Perry Dye was scheduled to represent the family at a big wing-ding at the GCI’s clubhouse to celebrate purchasing the club. He had a private plane fly him in so he made it.

Our office was just a few minutes away from the club, so I made it – although it took a lot longer than usual.

So it was just me, Perry Dye, a bunch of waiters/cooks etc., a handful of guests and a lot of fancy food. They decided to go ahead with the event for the few of us there and hold another gathering at a future date.

I don’t know a ton about golf and even less about course designs, but I spent a half hour talking with the man about some of the changes that were going to be made about the course and about his family. It was a fun conversation.  He obviously knew his stuff and conveyed his craft in a way that was interesting even to a novice.

The Dyes plan was to attract the interest of more women and junior golfers.

Anyway, once we were done gabbing, there was a roomful of fancy food to be sampled and I was ready to try new things. I’m not a seafood guy, but on this night…

I had some lobster which pretty much tasted like the garlic butter that they put on it. I tried crab. Naaaah.

There was this big ol’ dead fish with its head and eye looking at me toward the left, its tail to the right and in the middle where his stomach ought to be was cut up stuff that I assume we were supposed to eat.

I passed on that one.

But there was other food from steaks to desserts and I left full as I drove a looooong short trip back to the office in the messy weather. Later, at about midnight or so, the drive home was no picnic, either.

So, for those of you old enough to remember Valentine’s Day a quarter of a century ago, Happy Anniversary.

Mine was to Dye for.