Chicago had already been buried this winter by 75.5 inches of snow, the fourth most on record dating back to 1884-85. Wednesday's snow pushed the seasonal total into third place, ahead of the 77-inch total from 1969-70.
After a few days of tantalizingly warmer temperatures, the return to snow-covered streets and trees was a jarring sight. Workers in downtown Chicago grunted as they heaved slush with well-worn shovels. Others rushed to return sidewalk signs warning pedestrians of ice falling from skyscrapers.
A tour boat company that ferries sightseers along the Chicago River even announced it was delaying this weekend's planned rollout of vessels from winter storage because they were encased in 20-inch-thick ice. Temperatures Friday are forecast in the 50s.
But there were some gluttons for winter punishment reveling in another blitz of squalling snow.
One of them was bookstore owner Ken Peczkowski, of South Bend, Ind., who was happy to be out shoveling again.
"It makes me feel alive," he said. "Summer just drags me down. Winter, I feel like I have to fight for every day of life, and that's great. It's good exercise."
Peczkowski said he remembers worse winters, including the blizzard of '78, when the city received a record 172 inches of snow.
"We made it through that, too," he said. "I think we were open every day."
Others have been searching at least for a feeling of spring, including some who stopped to check out the house plants and cheery garden items at Jeff Gatewood's nursery in the Indianapolis suburb of Fishers.
"Everybody's got so much pent-up energy, it's going to make for a crazy spring," Gatewood said. "Spring fever is really going to be pretty high this year."
Associated Press writers Tom Coyne in South Bend, Ind., Carolyn Thompson in Buffalo, N.Y., and Rick Callahan in Indianapolis contributed to this report.