ALBANY PARK — Carl Nyberg was walking out of a grocery store Saturday night when his feet went out from under him. The next thing he knew, his back was on the icy ground.
Nyberg didn’t sustain any major injuries — just some sore muscles — from the slip outside Chicago Produce, 3500 W. Lawrence Ave. His story is one many Chicagoans can relate to after the weekend saw a bit of snow, freezing rain and below-zero temperatures, which created the perfect conditions for everything to get coated in ice.
“It’s slippery out there,” Nyberg said.
Sidewalks and alleys have been particularly fraught with peril. People can be seen shuffling and sliding across them all over the city.
“The sidewalk looked almost like a skating rink,” Caroline Wooten said as she described a stretch of sidewalk in Bridgeport where she offered to help a man who had fallen and twisted his ankle Sunday afternoon. “It was so slippery, and the whole thing was a sheet of ice.”
Some are also worried people getting injured from falls on black ice will put pressure on local hospitals, which have already been slammed with COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron surge.
Emily Mikhail had to go to the emergency room Sunday. When she checked in about 2 p.m., nurses told her the wait was close to 14 hours, Mikhail said.
“The nurses were telling us that between the COVID surge and the black ice, there were just no beds,” she said.
While waiting in the hospital, she “put the dots together about how the ice this weekend would have impacted a hospital system that was already super overwhelmed,” she said.
Northwestern Immediate Care Centers saw an 18 percent increase in injuries related to falls over the past week compared to a week in November, said Heather Keirnan, vice president of operations.
In response to the ice, the Department of Streets and Sanitation deployed its fleet of salt spreaders, according to a department news release.
But that agency is only responsible for clearing the streets, not sidewalks or other pedestrian walkways. That’s up to Chicago homeowners and landlords.
Residents and business owners are required to clear a 5-foot-wide path the day of or the next morning if snow or ice fell overnight. Those who don’t can be cited and fined up to $500 for individuals and $1,000 for businesses.
Last winter, 667 snow citations were issued, according to a spokesperson from the Chicago Department of Transportation.
Despite that, numerous sidewalks were still iced over or unshoveled Monday, creating conditions that can be dangerous for all people, and especially people with disabilities or older folks.
“On sidewalks that had been shoveled, it was just a thin glaze of ice. But for sidewalks that hadn’t been cleared from the snowfall that happened a few days earlier, you get these patches of incredibly treacherous and dangerous ice-snow combo,” said Alex Nelson, a campaign manager with Better Streets Chicago.
To get around the ice, some pedestrians used traction cleats that can wrap around their shoes to improve their grip while others decided to avoid the sidewalks altogether and walked on the cleared streets.
Kate Wagner had to hold onto fences along the sidewalk while walking Saturday night in Logan Square. The sidewalk situation is “somehow worse this year, in terms of ice,” Wagner said.
“Part of the reason it was so scary was because it was at night, so you couldn’t see anything, and so you’d step on a patch of sidewalk that you’d think was clear when it was actually completely and totally iced,” she said.
The Department of Transportation urged Chicagoans to clear snow from the sidewalks and treat surfaces with salt. When clearing snow, it should not be pushed into a marked bike lane, crosswalk or bus stop, according to the department.
The department also encourages residents to report uncleared sidewalks through the 311 system. Residents can file a report online by searching “Snow – Uncleared Sidewalk or Bike Lane” or calling 311. More information is available on the department’s website here.
Since Jan. 1, the city has received 1,794 311 calls regarding sidewalks being cleared, according to a spokesperson with the Office of Emergency Management and Communications.
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