Winter Nightmare!

This post is inspired by the Absolute Write’s January Blog Chain. Please visit the forum and also a list of blogger’s that participated in the chain follows this post. Please visit those blogs as well to see what they came up with for their Winter Nightmare!

You always hear those stories from the old timers sitting in their little groups in coffee shops and restaurants all across the country: “I remember the blizzard of 1930, you could barely see outside the windows and we were snowed in for days.”

But nothing could have prepared me for the blizzard that descended on the Chicago area on February 1st 2011.

Like most amazing events, it started off with normal day and a normal Winter snowfall, something you become used to living in the Midwest. For days the National Weather Service had called for a major blizzard in the forecasts by early that evening with predicted totals being close to 24 inches of snow by the time it all ended sometime early the next morning.

My boss had refused to close the small shop I worked in due to the weather as he felt it would be ‘nothing’ and as I worked alone and had no car at that time, I was actually fearful that I might have to spend a night in the back of the store, trying to catch some sleep on a rickety office chair.

However the need to have steady income and my bills paid overcame sensibility and instinct and off I went, not knowing that less than eight hours later I would be fearing for my life.

As the storm progressed the streets got worse no matter how many times the snow plows plowed the main street my store was located along, and eventually cars disappeared from the scene all together with the few brave (Or foolish) souls who had to venture out getting stuck out on the roads.

At the height of the storm I was sitting on two milk crates watching the sky glow purple with the rare phenomenon of thunder snow while observing anyone foolish enough to try to enter the shop’s lot, which had yet to be plowed even once(Probably due to them being stuck themselves elsewhere), getting stuck in the drifts that had accumulated on our entrance way.

By the time nine-o-clock had arrived I had enough. I called my boss telling him that if I was going to leave it had to be now as it was a now or never situation, as the NWS was still predicting even more snow into the overnight hours. He reluctantly agreed and I called my relief (Who was not even up yet and never would have made it on time even if he tried unless he had a team of sled dogs handy) and told him that I was closing the shop and that he should stay indoors.

I called a cab and made my plan of escape.

The front doors were pretty much snowed in by this point as I had given up on trying to shovel the path outside hours ago, as every time I did it returned with majorreinforcements less than half an hour later. However I had been keeping the back door clean as I knew I might need to get out of the store and there was no direct wind causing any snow to drift onto the doorway.

When the cab arrived I opened the door, shutting it behind me and literally leapt into what was at least a three-foot drift just beyond the doorway, fighting the bitter wind that was whistling around my head as I made my way to the cab which was idling on the main street as it could not enter the lot nor come down the side street next to the store, which was also impassable.

I felt like I was one of those old Apollo astronauts you would see on the videos of the moon landings as every step seemed to be awkward, with the difference that instead of being weightless, I had to struggle against the weight of the accumulated powder that was now almost to my knees as I approached the street.

With a final leap from the untouched snow to the cab, I swung open the door and told the cab driver where to go, thanking him for being so prompt and also for working on a night like this. Beyond that, neither of us made any of the usual idle conversation as the driver had his full concentration on the road ahead, as did I.

Everywhere around us cars were either stuck or stalled out, and the cab driver would swing the cab cautiously to the farthest lane when we were passing a stuck motorist who was spinning his wheels in the snow to try to escape, lest he free himself and ram the cab. This seemed to be something that had already happened to others as in the three-mile journey, which took us about thirty minutes, we saw lots of cars that were entangled with other vehicles.

When we finally got to the closest major roadway, about one street from my destination I instructed the cabbie to turn onto the main road as I did not want him to try to brave the side street my apartment was on and get himself stuck.

After assurances from me that this was fine, I paid the man fifty dollars for what usually was a twenty-dollar fare, the only time on my limited budget that I ever gave such a large tip, but the driver’s good driving skills and willingness to work in the middle of the blizzard made me very generous.

Exiting the cab I was once again faced with a terrible wind that seemed like something out a movie about the Alaskan tundra, the wind being augmented by the fact that I lived near an agricultural high school which had some open land which the winds and snow just blew across unimpeded.

Walking from this main street to my apartment took five minutes, which is amazing as it is only a street down. I know the exact time it took as I recorded the event:

(The lack of accumulated snow in the video is due to the snow being blown out of that area by the wind, with it mostly falling into the streets around the back lot I was walking through)

By the time I reached the inside of my apartment it almost seemed unreal, as if the last eight and a half hours had never happened at all.

The Chicago Blizzard of 2011 was the third worst blizzard in Chicago history, with a total snowfall of 21.2 inches. Not as bad as they said, but pretty close.

But at least now I know that when I am old and grey and grumpy I can aggravate all the young whipper snappers with memories of how I survived the great Chicago Blizzard of ’11, even if I add an inch or two of snow each time I tell it.

Other people participated in the Absolute Write January Blog Chain and they are listed below, please visit them and check out what Winter Nightmare they created:

Participants and posts:
orion_mk3 – (link to this month’s post)
MamaStrong – (link to this month’s post)
pyrosama – (link to this month’s post)
Turndog-Millionaire – (link to this month’s post)
Alpha Echo – (link to this month’s post)
LilGreenBookworm – (link to this month’s post)
Domoviye – (link to this month’s post)
writingismypassion – (link to this month’s post)
kimberlycreates – (link to this month’s post)
Suzanne Seese – (link to this month’s post)
Diana Rajchel – (link to this month’s post)
Ralph Pines – (link to this month’s post)
Alynza – (link to this month’s post)
Literateparakeet – (link to this month’s post)
in_one – (link to this month’s post)
Tomspy77 – (link to this month’s post)
Inkstrokes – (link to this month’s post)
kiwiviktor81 – (link to this month’s post)
These Mean Streets – (link to this month’s post)
areteus – (link to this month’s post)
Abielle Rose – (link to this month’s post)

28 Responses to Winter Nightmare!

  1. that is quite a snow storm. We don’t get snow like that in England

    Nice story though, keeps things flowing nicely

    Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

    • tomspy77 says:

      Matt: Thanks for the kind words, the blog chain seems to be a nice way to get something posted and get some feedback as well. I will have to return the favor to all of you.

      But I will get going on reading the January one’s my curiosity could not be satisfied if I never knew what others Winter Nightmares were…I’d never sleep at night!

  2. […] (link to this month’s post) Tomspy77 – (link to this month’s post) Inkstrokes – (You are here!) kiwiviktor81 – […]

  3. I wish I could see that video!! I’m at work and the firewall here blocks Youtube. 😦

    Anyway, I’m glad you made it home safe. Holy crap! I wouldn’t know what to do if I ever saw such a thing.

    • tomspy77 says:

      If you are inside your home like most people were that night you just wait it out. Thankfully I did not lose power as many did in the area. that would have made being at home much harder lol.

  4. Dale Long says:

    HAHAHA! What a great final line! Why I remember…

    What a suffocating journey. Well done!

    • tomspy77 says:

      Thank you so much for the kind words!

      It means a lot and it little comments like that that keep me going even when I don’t feel very accomplished for the day (Or two..or three. 🙂 ).

  5. alexp01 says:

    I have family in Chicago, and once or twice a generation the city obliges with snowfall that people can use as a benchmark for the rest of their lives. That bitter Lake Michigan wind doesn’t help, either!

  6. ralfast says:

    I like the snow in December, I tolerate the snow in January, I dislike the snow in February and detest the white $#@! in March!

    Or my reminiscence of northwestern winters (from the other side of Lake Michigan).

    Well done.

    • tomspy77 says:

      I usually like snow when it falls, especially the first couple of flurries, but once it is on the ground and the sludge from the salt is in the streets and all that, I can’t stand the stuff.

      Thanks for the kind words and for stopping in! 🙂

  7. I grew up in Chicago area. Lake effect snow was most definitely its own beast!

    • tomspy77 says:

      Yes it can be.

      In December 2010 there was a storm so bad near the lake that it washed lake water up onto Lake Shore Drive.

      It promptly froze, making the two lanes closest to the lake unusable.

      Thanks for reading and commenting by the way!

  8. My mom lives North of Chicago. She took a picture of how high the snow was after that storm, and the snow was halfway up her garage doors. You all got dumped on. Glad you were safe!

  9. Bill says:

    Wow, that was some storm. I think they had a similar storm like that the same year in NY/NJ where my family lives.

    That was a very enjoyable story told in a very enjoyable way. Great job.

    • tomspy77 says:


      Thanks for the kind words. Yeah, winter srorms like those can be both amazing to be a part of and scary at the same time.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment on the post and I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  10. Dan says:

    I like the video, it reminds me of my hometown on Lake Superior. Fortunately for me, every time there’s been a winter storm that bad, I’ve been safely inside, except once which I don’t like to remember.

  11. We experience Lake Effect Snow also. Northeast Ohio has to deal with Lake Erie. Once the lake freezes it calms down but with the weird winter we are having this year I fear we will have to deal with it all season. Blah.
    WTG tipping the cab driver big time. I wonder how well he did that night. 😉

  12. Leslie says:

    Wow! That was quite a blizzard. I lived in Anchorage during a “record snow fall” year and we didn’t even have it that bad. You can tell the young ones some stories later!

    • tomspy77 says:

      Yes indeed lol.

      As I said at the end of that post, I can even add an inch or two when I tell the young whipper snappers ’bout the Blizzard of ’11! 😉

      Thanks for reading!

  13. That was a crazy storm! I remember the snow thunder too, but don’t remember the purple sky. We’re up north of you, in Wisconsin. I think that might have been the storm where a couple of our freeways even shut down because off drifts across the road and the snow plows couldn’t keep up.

  14. […] Winter Nightmare! ( Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted in Weather Phobia Related and tagged anemophobia, articles, Astraphobia, Battling a Weather Phobia, fear, help, Karin R. Herrmann, lilapsophobia, Panic attack, Phobia, Posttraumatic stress disorder, Specific phobia, Storm cellar, support, Thunderstorm, tonitrophobia, Tornado, weather, WX by Thomas Spychalski. Bookmark the permalink. […]

  15. The entire country was affected by that storm. Oklahoma got 2-3 feet of snow and for the very first time my husband’s employer (the local newspaper) shut down for 2 days. He wrote articles from home and emailed them. A guy with a bulldozer cleared driveways in the neighborhood for extra money.

    My Buick bit the snow on I-44 and was rated a total loss. I had to go out and buy a car so I could get to work. 1000 vehicles were claimed by that storm.

    I grew up in Utah and became familiar with big snows, but nevertheless that was something to see!! Karin

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