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Snow and blustery weather AWOL in 2012

Kiichiro Sato / AP file

A year ago today, hundreds of cars were stranded on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago after a winter blizzard of historic proportions wobbled an otherwise snow-tough city on Feb. 1, 2011.

Kiichiro Sato / AP

Today, traffic moves along smoothly on the same stretch of Lake Shore Drive.

A year ago today, hundreds of drivers were trapped in snow-buried cars for 12 hours on Chicago's Lake Shore Drive.

Chicago has always taken pride in surviving snowstorms, and a year after the Feb. 1 blizzard shut down its iconic lakefront thoroughfare at rush hour - residents and city government have humbly taken steps to prevent a repeat performance.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration created new safeguards, including more managers on duty during storms, better inter-agency communication to make quicker decisions and breaks in the roadway's formerly impenetrable berm to make sure motorists can evacuate more easily.

The crushing February blizzard was the third worst in Chicago history. It dumped more than 20 inches of snow and blasted the city with 70-mph gusts. Airports and businesses closed, and it cost the city an estimated $37.3 million in snow-clearing operations.

But Chicago isn't the only American city where snow has been missing in 2012.

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Mario Tama / Getty Images

German tourists Lisa Klingelhoefer and Dawina Goth take in the sunshine in Central Park on Feb. 1 in New York City. Temperatures topped 60 degrees in the city as an unseasonably mild winter continues.

This year, less than a fifth of the country outside of Alaska has snow on the ground, and much of the country there's not even a nip in the air. For the Northeast it's one of the warmest and least snowy winters on record, with most of the region's temperatures the last couple months averaging 5 degrees warmer than normal, according to the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University.

-- The Associated Press contributed to the blog post

Preston Gannaway / AP

Marquis Parker feeds bread to gulls in Ocean View in Norfolk, Va., on Tuesday, Jan. 31.