Like most Midwestern cities, Chicago spends four to six months of the year battling with cold winds, freezing rain, slush-covered streets, and snow. Fortunately, because the city sits approximately south of Lake Michigan, most of the weather is unaffected by the lake, and lake-effect snow is a rare occurrence. Instead, the weather usually flows from the northwest, bringing arctic air over Chicago before it meets the lake. Though rare, lake-effect snow is not unheard of in the Windy City, and when it does occur, it can cause devastating damage to homes and business all along the Illinois-Lake Michigan border. If you experience damage from winter weather, you can count on ServiceMaster DSI for comprehensive water damage restoration in Chicago, IL.
When lake-effect snow does hit Chicago, the results have often included deep snows and other severe winter weather. The list of notable blizzards in Chicago is alarmingly hefty, but some stand out more than others when looking at lake-effect snow.
Blizzard of 1999
Hitting just after the New Year ushered in 1999, this blizzard dumped around two feet of snow over Chicago in less than 48 hours. The storm struck across the Midwest and large sections of Canada, leaving behind record low temperatures and paralyzed cities. Though this blizzard stemmed from arctic winds from the northwest meeting Atlantic winds from the east, the extreme cold air created significant amounts of lake-effect snow that fell directly over Chicago and up the west coast of Lake Michigan. The lake-effect snow was responsible for nearly all the snowfall in metro Chicago between January 2nd and 4th. Transportation was frozen and a federal disaster was declared in 45 Illinois counties. The building damages from the storm cost around $400 million (almost $600 million today).
Blizzards of 2011, 2015, and 2015
Though today, Chicagoans enjoy snow-free (albeit frigid) weather compared to the same time of year 18 years ago, the possibilities of a blizzard remain even until late March. Around Groundhog Day alone, very similar winter storms hit Chicago in 2011, 2015, and 2016. The 2011 storm affected all of North America with weather changes, creating blizzard conditions and thunderstorms in northern Illinois. It was the third largest snowfall in Chicago, after the 1967 and 1999 blizzards. The 2015 storm spread from the east coast to Chicago, forcing lake-effect snow across the city and leaving behind close to 22 inches in northern suburbs. The most recent Groundhog Day blizzard, in 2016, stalled flights leaving Chicago airports and dumped lake-effect snow on major highways around the city.
In many ways, winter begins again with a new year, and Chicago isn’t in the clear just yet when it comes to winter weather. If you experience building damage from winter storms, contact ServiceMaster DSI at (844) 413-3130 for professional water damage restoration in Chicago, IL.