Refuge from the storm

March 1, 2011

When an early February blizzard dumped about 20 inches of snow on Chicago and closed down parts of the city's famous Lake Shore Drive, hundreds of stranded motorists turned to Chicago's Saint Joseph Hospital as a safe haven from the elements.

Accidents and deep snow drifts caused a traffic stoppage involving upwards of 900 cars on Lake Shore Drive the evening of Feb. 1, and hundreds of people abandoned their vehicles. Many headed, cold, wet and windblown, to Saint Joseph, which is located on the downtown thoroughfare in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.

Arriving by bus, snowmobile, ambulance and on foot throughout the night and into the predawn hours of Feb. 2, most of the arrivals simply wanted a warm, safe place to stay and some basic care. There were no blizzard-related admissions to the hospital, although a few people were treated for chest pains and frost bite and released, according to Saint Joseph.

Having prepared prior to the blizzard for a possible onslaught of snow-related cases, Saint Joseph staff stepped into action as the storm's refugees arrived, giving them coffee, hot chocolate, muffins and bagels. They offered them blankets, warm socks and fresh scrubs and welcomed them to camp out in the cafeteria, conference rooms and other areas.

Staff also helped the arrivals to call family members and tow trucks.

It took almost 12 hours for some vehicles to be freed from the snow on Lake Shore.


Copyright © 2011 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
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