Jimm Dispensa posted that powerful photo of Lake Shore Drive backed up in Blizzard 2011 and asked the question, "Bad LSD trip?"
Yep. sure was. Where was LSD Rescue when you needed it? Even the 1960s-era activist group had a script to explain what was happening to teenagers who wandered in on bad acid trips so they wouldn't freak out. The goal was to explain what was happening and relieve some uncertainty so the tripper could talk himself down from a freak out. Don't you think stranded motorists -- who were put on a bad LSD trip by a blizzard and a series of accidents -- deserved at least that much from the City's LSD rescue team?
Seriously. Not to take away from all the good, hard working men and woman who did so much and will continue to do so much during Blizzard 2011: Your amazing efforts are very much appreciated and we thank you.
I do have to ask, though, on behalf of those who were stranded on Lake Shore Drive for hours and hours. Was information released in a timely manner telling people help was on its way, telling folks what to do to stay, safe, warm and alive? I haven't found the best "official" source of information on the chronology of events nor on City announcements--yet, but here is what my sister has to say. She was stranded for about 8 hours before she decided that it didn't make sense to go it alone and abandoned her car to get on the bus behind her. I am so glad that bus was there and she used her common sense. She says:
Yes. It was chaotic. But a chaotic situation all in all. What caused the whole thing to go into chaos was 3 events - 1. Jack knifed bus blocking 3 lanes, 2. Stalled or cars in accident somewhere around jack knifed bus, 3. 25+ foot waves hitting LSD far north, farther than the jack knifed bus, forcing them to close the drive.
If any of these components had not been at issue, I think we would have all gotten home last night and LSD would have been safely closed with very few abandoned cars or stranded motorists if any. Personally, I had never imagined what a blizzard was like, but when you stepped out of your car the belting, constant 50 mile an hour winds beating you with snow, a temperature well in the low 20s but somehow getting soaked immediately and frozen instantly. I was soaked from head to toe the whole time. If you had to get out of your car at all to clean the windshield, sitting in traffic you hope to be moving, you know, shoveling snow away from your exhaust if you want to run your car at all, or just getting out to talk to others to see if they knew what was going on meant exposing yourself to this horrible combination of events.
It wasn't until this morning that I realized I was probably so wet because of those waves that were getting thrown off of the lake from that wind belting from the east.
My sister and I had been in contact by phone and on Facebook and it didn't seem she was in snow slow-down traffic. As I tried to determine what was going on -- and her best course of action -- mostly from the Internet, Twitter and 911 -- I realized that what I was hearing from the City of Chicago was silence. Most people stranded on LSD had cell phones, many had smart phones and I am sure some had ipads and other devices to connect them with the Internet.
Don't you think it would have made sense to have put out an alert to the Media, explaining the situation with the bus and the car accidents, giving a heads-up to those stranded and their families and offering certain hope that yes, indeed there were rescue workers coming their way? Don't you think it might have made sense to also have offered safety advice on how to stay, safe warm and dry.
AS you can tell from reading this report, not even the bus drivers and city salt trucks stuck on LSD knew what was going on.
I ask this with all respect to Chief of Staff Orozco: Why were not the simple facts of the situation released along with safety advice for those stranded?
I think this is an important question to ask in these times of splintered news streams, and calls for transparent government. There might be something in the timing of these events that explains why we did not know hear the specifics when we should have. But I don't know that for a fact.
I have seen some question Orozco's appointment as Chief of Staff Jan. 7. My sense is that during Chicago's winter, there's nobody you'd rather have in charge of emergency systems than a professional who's served as Fire Commissioner through as many calamitous events as he has, including the heat wave of 1995. He knows how to activate the complex rescue and safety mechanisms of the City.
But Orozco is not a professional communicator.
City government is full of professional communicators and what they should have known and not forgotten is that those cars on LSD were occupied by people -- thrust into horrendous conditions and isolation-- who really needed and deserved some effective LSD rescue from their city government.