Leaving work early didn't do all that much good.
Area workers in droves Tuesday left their jobs well before quitting time trying to beat the blizzard, but the the preemptive move still didn't prevent hundreds of the early commuters from getting stuck on buses, trains and in their cars for hours.
The worst situation appeared to stem from a closed Lake Shore Drive, where hundreds of commuters reported being stuck for at least five hours. The Drive was shut down early Tuesday evening due to safety concerns over the weather and as buses and other vehicles became trapped in the overwhelming snowfall.
At 2:30 a.m., people trapped in their cars on the Drive were complaining via cell phone that there was still no sign that anyone was coming to rescue them.
Road closures were reported throughout the region due to drifting snow and diminished visibility. That included Sheridan Road in Evanston from its southern border with the City of Chicago up along the lakefront to Chicago Avenue and 60 miles of I-80 from Morris west to Princeton, Ill.
Also, the inbound Stevenson Expressway (I-55) is closed at Martin Luther King Drive due to the close-down of Lake Shore Drive.
As of 3:45 a.m., state officials were telling motorists to stay off I-290 from St. Charles Road to I- 90 and I-57 south of I-80.
In general, though, people just shouldn’t travel, said Illinois Department of Transportation spokesman Guy Tridgell.
“We’re urging the public to stay home and stay off the roads,” he said.
The agency is reporting whiteout conditions, snow-covered pavement, extreme blowing and drifting and numerous cases of stalled and stranded vehicles throughout the region. In the Chicago-area, approximately 350 pieces of snow-fighting equipment were on the roads and had been since 2 p.m. Tuesday, Tridgell said.
Similarly, all roads in western Kane County were impassable. Plows and tow trucks were unable to function.
"Anyone who attempts to travel does so without very little chance of immediate assistance should they become stuck," the sheriff's office warned.
Train stations also turned into chaos.
Hordes of travelers crammed onto the platforms and trains at Union Station as Metra staff held paper schedules and made frequent announcements directing passengers to trains operating on altered schedules and making additional stops.
But things didn't get much better once riders got on trains.
Delays of more than two hours were reported on some Metra lines Tuesday.
Electronic problems with the track switching mechanisms led to everything from half-hour delays to train cancellations.
“The blowing snow was causing some real grief on our switches,” spokesman Michael Gillis said.
At 2:30 a.m., about six trains on various service lines remained delayed by 30 minutes to 1½ hours.
Metra said it would continually update its Web site at www.metrarail.com and provide rider alerts via e-mail for My Metra account holders and to Twitter subscribers throughout the storm.