White-Out

Not that I regularly blog about the weather, but I kinda love Chicago, and it just got pounded:


When Jenny Theroux plotted her commute home Tuesday afternoon, she was certain she would arrive well before the full force of the blizzard hit. For the final leg of her trip, she turned onto Lake Shore Drive, this city's wide and busy thoroughfare along Lake Michigan, at 4 p.m. 

But instead of spending her usual 20 minutes along that stretch of road, Ms. Theroux sat in her car for the next 12 hours and 45 minutes at a dead stop, trapped in a line of hundreds of other cars and at least three city buses, everyone going nowhere. 

As 70-mile-an-hour gusts whipped her Mazda 3 and eerie thunder boomed nearby, snow fell so fast that she could not see through the gauzy blur beyond her windshield. Ms. Theroux called Chicago's municipal help line, turned the engine on occasionally to warm up, and waited and waited, just 800 frustrating feet from an exit ramp. "I started to worry I might run out of gas and be frozen," Ms. Theroux, 23, recalled on Wednesday in a tired, strained voice. "I'm from a small town in Minnesota, where if you get stranded, you're basically all alone. But here I was, right here, and I felt the same way -- completely isolated." 

Chicago, a city that prides itself on its ability to conquer any snowstorm that comes its way, woke up Wednesday to discover that hundreds of people had been trapped for hours -- scared and confused, in part because of the vague advice they heard from emergency workers -- along a prominent roadway that runs smack through the heart of the city.

I used to think that Chicago was pretty cold. Then I went to Fargo. Clearly this storm was pretty bad. But, if I'm recalling this right, it had been snowing for something like twenty straight days. It was so cold there that drops in temperture stopped registering. There's a difference between 80 degrees and 80 degrees. The difference between zero and negative ten is less obvious. It's more a matter of how quickly you get frostbite. Still at some point, it's just cold.

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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