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Chicagoist's Top 11 for 2011: The Blizzaster of 2011

By Chuck Sudo in News on Dec 19, 2011 7:00PM

Image Credit: Bart Heird

(Ed. Note: Over the next two weeks we'll be recapping the newsworthy events we believed made the biggest headlines over the past 12 months. Today, we start with the Blizzaster of 2011. — CS)

According to today's weather forecast, we're due for our 17th day of above-normal temperatures in December. Barring another round of thundersnow, this December will wind up being one for the record books as among the months with the least amount of measurable snow.

It's a far cry from what we experienced 10 months ago. Every meteorologist in town from Tom Skilling to the dearly departed Ginger Zee had the same forecast on Feb. 1: We were due for a metric shit-ton of snow. When a weatherman says we're getting a lot of snow, that usually conjures memories of the Blizzards of 1967 and 1979. Former Mayor Richard M. Daley assured residents the city was ready for whatever Mother Nature had in store for the City of Broad Shoulders.

21.2 inches of snow later, the indelible images of the Blizzaster of 2011 were of stranded cars along Lake Shore Drive, countless stories about hazardous conditions along LSD by commuters (including our own Benjy Lipsman) and Daley sending his department heads to face the resulting media scrum to explain how this could happen. When he did pop his head up to field questions, Daley saw his shadow.

You know it's a storm of Biblical proportions when Al Roker and Jim Cantore are sent to cover it.

The recorded snowfall at O'Hare placed the Blizzard of 2011 third all-time behind the Blizzards of 1967 and 1999. Motorists who didn't shovel out their spots took to the trains in droves, while the mess on Lake Shore Drive was cleaned up in short order, followed by the rest of the city's main roadways. Side streets were another matter.

The cost for removing all the snow was $37.3 million, while President Obama did Gov. Quinn a solid and declared the Illinois a federal disaster area in the wake of the blizzard. Once Rahm Emanuel took office he ordered an "after-action report" commissioned to look at what happened on Lake Shore Drive that night and what could be done to ensure it didn't happen again.

Here at Chicagoist headquarters, we made a lot of DIY "I Survived the Blizzaster" t-shirts and enjoyed security camera video of a homeowner getting his revenge on a woman who stole his snow shovel.

Reflecting on the Blizzaster, it wound up being a minor hiccup in what was overall a mild winter. But we're going to have more cold and snow before this winter is over, just like every year before. When it comes, we'll resurrect the age old argument over dibs and chronicle the folks who try to keep them from happening.