Returning from the West Coast after staying up late (in a different time zone) every night got me off to a slow start this morning. I'm glad to report that Half Moon Bay still exists, San Francisco is still the second-coolest city on the continent (after Chicago, and only just the barest fraction of a point above New York), and it's still winter.
The good news is that 48 hours of above-freezing temperatures—with almost 18 hours at or above 8°C—melted just about all the snow and ice in Chicago.
The bad news? A cold front moved in overnight and it's now -9°C with 57 km/h winds giving us a wind chill of -19°C.
Chicago weather builds character.
Last night the Evanston city council approved what will be the tallest building in Illinois outside Chicago:
The Evanston Plan Commission tonight voted 4-3 to recommend approval of the proposed 49-story tower at 708 Church St. to the City Council.
The commissioners were sharply divided on whether development downtown over the last several decades has made the Fountain Square block an appropriate site for high-rise development.
Commissioners who looked to the east and west saw Sherman Plaza, the Chase Bank tower and other high rise developments and said yes.
Apparently this is the first time since records have been kept (back to 1924) that we've had four consecutive days of gleeshy, sleety, nearly-frozen weather.
This is one of my favorite milestones. Thanks to the analemma, tonight's sunset (4:20 pm) is the earliest of the year in Chicago. Of course, the sunrise still gets later every day until January 4th. At least tomorrow we'll have just a smidge more evening light than we'll have today.
At the moment, a stiff wind is blowing snow straight down Chicago Avenue. It's -2°C. Overnight 13 cm of snow covered the ground, and people are just now shoveling it off the sidewalks. Here's the forecast:
Temperature rising to near -1°C by noon, then falling to around -4°C during the remainder of the day. Blustery, with a north northeast wind between 32 and 40 km/h. Chance of precipitation is 90%. Total daytime snow accumulation of 5 to 10 cm possible.
Tonight: Mostly clear, with a low around -9°C. Northwest wind between 16 and 14 km/h.
The weather actually made the front page of the Chicago Tribune:
"It's still coming down—all the way to Ottawa," said National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Wilson.
It will also stay around for a while. Temperatures won't reach significantly above freezing before Saturday, he said.
The Illinois Department of Transportation warned motorists to take it easy—and if at all possible to take trains to work this morning.
So instead of my usual walk-Parker-to-daycare-bus-to-the-office routine, I drove. I think this was reasonable, even given the ten minutes it took to dig my car out this morning.
I feel guilty about it, but I'll get over it.
No sooner had our first snowfall melted when we started to get our second one:
On the walk back from Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters he forgot his leash discipline a little, as when he nearly yanked my arm out of its socket when he saw a rabbit bounding through the snow. He was just so excited to see snow he couldn't contain himself.
The first snow of the season has begun in Chicago. Yippee.
Parker yawns lazily on the sidewalk by Bean Traders Coffee in Durham, N.C., where the temperature is 22°C*:
* For comparison, back home in Chicago it's 6°C, windy, and raining.
Update, 1pm EST: It's now 24°C here and 6°C (and still windy and gross) in Chicago.
Today's Chicago Tribune explains that while the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) has serious problems funding its daily operations, it has an even bigger problem finding the $6 billion required to make capital improvements:
The CTA says it is more than $6 billion short of adequately modernizing its rail and bus lines, a staggering number lost in the debate as the agency lurches from one "doomsday" to another searching for the tens of millions of dollars it needs to keep operating.
The result is that more than 500 CTA buses, one-fourth of its fleet, have been on the road for 16 years, logging an average 580,000 miles apiece.
The cost of repairing and maintaining the old buses is soaring. The CTA said it spends $16 million a year to keep the old buses in running order, more than five-fold the $3 million cost for upkeep on newer models.
Reporter Jon Hilkevich does examine some of the reasons for the funding shortfall:
Increasing amounts of the CTA's capital budget -- more than a combined $150 million since 2003 -- have been diverted to operations to help balance annual budgets and reduce the threatened service cuts and fare increases under the CTA's doomsday plans.
At the same time, capital funding to the CTA has fallen by almost $200 million a year since the Illinois FIRST infrastructure program expired almost five years ago.
Without the state launching a successor to Illinois FIRST, non-federal capital funding to the CTA during the next five years is projected at one-tenth the level in 2002, according to CTA budget documents.