Stories by Patty Wetli

As it Turns 25, Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie is Just Hitting its Stride

Midewin, the first national tallgrass prairie in the U.S., was established Feb. 10, 1996, celebrating its 25th anniversary. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

The 18,000-acre restoration site continues to evolve, as this home of the former Joliet Arsenal gradually returns to its native prairie state. 

How a Remnant of Chicago’s Ice Age Geology Created a Path to Freedom on the Underground Railroad

The Lost Beach Trail at Sand Ridge Nature Center leads to a view of an ancient shoreline. (Courtesy of Forest Preserve District of Cook County)

An ancient sand ridge in the Calumet region became a well-worn route used by enslaved people seeking freedom.

Winter Storm: Here’s the Timing for Freezing Rain, Snow and Plunging Temps

Chicagoans are prepping for another winter storm. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

Winter has arrived with a vengeance. The next 48 hours will bring a one-two punch of snow and plunging temperatures.

Newberry Scholars Spill the Tea on Lady Whistledown of ‘Bridgerton’

The Duke of Hastings and Daphne Bridgerton are the subject of much gossip in the Netflix series "Bridgerton." (Netflix / Facebook)

Find out what the hit Netflix series gets right — and wrong — about gossip in the 1800s when Newberry Library scholars host a lighthearted virtual chat this week.

Dueling Groundhog Day Forecasts From Punxsutawney Phil and Woodstock Willie

Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this Groundhog Day, Feb. 2, 2021. (Punxutawney Phil / Facebook)

It’s Groundhog Day. Will it be six more weeks of winter or an early spring?

Chicago Digs Out From Foot of Snow, Next Comes the Sub-Zero Arctic Blast

Nearly a foot of snow blanketed the Chicago region over the weekend, leaving cars covered Monday, Feb. 1. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

Parts of the Chicago area notched more than a foot of snow over the weekend. It won’t have much chance to melt, with a blast of arctic air heading our way toward the end of the week.

Name That Tree: Cues to Winter IDs, from ‘Witches Brooms’ to Waxy Twigs

Take a close look at bark. It has a lot of clues about a tree's identity. (Pexels / Elizaveta Dushechkina)

There are quirky details to be found in bark, twigs and buds that can turn a walk in the woods or around the block into a game of “name that tree.”

Storm to Dump Half a Foot of Snow on Chicago Saturday: Forecast

Get ready for another round of snow, Chicago. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

The snow is likely to hit late Saturday afternoon and intensify rapidly, with accumulations of more than six inches possible, according to the National Weather Service.

Chicago Park District Working to Heal Environment, Ecosystem at Big Marsh Park

Lauren Umek of the Park District and research assistant Alifya Saify at Big Marsh Park. (Courtesy of Chicago Park District)

Portions of Big Marsh Park were once heaped high with waste from the area’s now defunct steel mills. The soil has since been remediated, and now the Chicago Park District is working to find out if native plants can grow and thrive there.  

Museum of Science and Industry Reopening With Blockbuster ‘Marvel’ Exhibit

The Museum of Science and Industry's "Marvel" exhibit will feature costumes, props and artwork. (Courtesy of the Museum of Science and Industry)

Is your Spidey sense tingling? The Museum of Science and Industry has announced it will reopen the first week in March with a new exhibit to greet guests: "Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes."

Emmett Till House Officially a Landmark After Receiving City Council Approval

The former home of Emmett Till and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, at 6427 S. St. Lawrence Ave. in Chicago’s Woodlawn community. (WTTW News)

The red brick two-flat in Woodlawn is now protected from demolition and any significant changes to its exterior. The vision is to transform the home into an international heritage pilgrimage site.

Doomsday Clock Stays 100 Seconds to Midnight After ‘COVID-19 Wake-Up Call’

The Doomsday Clock is set at 100 seconds to midnight. (Courtesy of Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists)

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists on Wednesday revealed its annual indicator of the world’s vulnerability to catastrophe, stating the COVID-19 pandemic showed how ill-prepared the global community is to handle a substantial threat.

Lakefront Bracing for Wind Gusts, High Waves as Winter Storm Bears Down

Strong winds are creating high waves along the Lake Michigan shoreline. (Nikkiwjourney / Pixabay)

A winter storm is forecast to deliver wind gusts up to 40 miles per hour and waves as high as 13 feet, creating hazardous conditions along Chicago's lakefront through Tuesday, the National Weather Service is warning. 

NEIU Wanted These Properties Badly Enough to Invoke Eminent Domain. They’re Still Vacant, So Now What?

NEIU invoked eminent domain to acquire a block of buildings on Bryn Mawr. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)

Five years after acquiring a block of properties on Bryn Mawr Avenue through eminent domain, Northeastern Illinois University has officially scrapped its plan to build student housing on the site and is casting about for other uses.

The Nod to Illinois Nature You May Have Missed in Jill Biden’s Inauguration Fashion

First Lady Jill Biden. (Facebook / Dr. Jill Biden)

The first lady’s dress and matching coat, worn during the “Celebrating America” televised special, were embroidered with the official flower from every state and territory in the U.S.

Art Institute Reopening in February, Extending Popular Monet Exhibit

Chicago's museums are gradually reopening following loosening of coronavirus restrictions. (Heidi Zeiger / Office of the Mayor)

The Art Institute of Chicago will reopen Feb. 11, joining the list of museums preparing to welcome back visitors now that coronavirus restrictions are being loosened. 

Basement-to-Tiki Bar Conversion Wins Bungalow Association’s ‘COVID Creativity’ Award

A Portage Park couple transformed their bungalow basement into a tiki bar. (Courtesy of Chicago Bungalow Association)

The Driehaus Bungalow Awards were established in 2005 and honor the best in bungalow restoration and renovation. “COVID Creativity” was added to the association’s annual award categories. Two winners were announced — check out the ingenuity. 

Chicago Park District Brings Back In-Person Winter Programs

Limited in-person winter programs kick off Jan. 25. (Courtesy of Chicago Park District)

Registration is now open, with limited in-person programming beginning Monday.

Chicago Claims Dibs on Best Sanders Memes

Even the CTA got in on the Sanders' fun. (Courtesy of Chicago Transit Authority)

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ appearance at Wednesday’s inauguration was the gift that kept on giving to social media. Chicagoans had some particularly clever takes.

Bubbly Creek Restoration is Cleared for Takeoff — Once the Funds Are Secured

Headwaters of Bubbly Creek and the Racine Avenue Pump Station. (Courtesy of USGS)

Congress authorized a plan from the Army Corps of Engineers to restore the Chicago River’s South Fork, a 1.25-mile stretch more familiarly known as Bubbly Creek. Now actual dollars need to follow. 

Field Museum Reopening This Week, With Free Days Coming Up for Illinoisans

Safety precautions are in place as the Field Museum reopens. (Michelle Kuo / Field Museum)

The Field Museum is reopening to members on Thursday and the general public on Saturday, with safety precautions in place. Next week, the museum will offer free admission to Illinois residents on select days. 

Shedd Aquarium Announces Reopening Dates, Tickets on Sale This Week

The Shedd Aquarium is preparing to reopen, with safety measures in place. (Shedd Aquarium / Brenna Hernandez)

With COVID-19 restrictions now loosened in Chicago, the Shedd Aquarium has announced its plan to reopen later this month with a number of health and safety measures in place.

This Chicago Family is Getting Through COVID-19 One Theme Week at a Time

"Cruise night" is just one of the weekly themes Heather Payne and her family have come up with to occupy themselves during pandemic restrictions. (Courtesy of Heather Payne)

Back in March, a lot of people faced their first weekend of coronavirus lockdown with no idea of how they would fill the hours. How one local family put a creative spin on stay-at-home entertainment.

Garfield Park Conservatory’s MLK Tribute Fit for a King

The Garfield Park Conservatory’s 2020 Martin Luther King Jr. tribute. (Courtesy of Garfield Park Conservatory)

The Garfield Park Conservatory is celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day virtually, with a look back at past tributes.   

Chicago Skyscrapers To Go Dark During National COVID-19 Memorial Service

(S. Hermann & F. Richter / Pixabay)

As part of a memorial service planned by the incoming Biden-Harris administration, Chicago’s skyscrapers will go dark for 10 minutes Tuesday night in remembrance of those who have died from COVID-19. Here’s how you can participate.

Monty & Rose Have Gone Their Separate Ways, For the Winter at Least, And That’s Totally Normal

Great Lakes piping plovers, like the one pictured, don't tend to spend the winters with their mate. (Vince Cavalieri / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Rose is spending the winter in Florida, while a sighting of Monty was recently confirmed in Texas. Trouble in plover paradise or the secret to the couple’s success?