The snowstorm expected to hit Chicago may be arriving later than expected. But don’t give thanks just yet. Blizzard conditions are on the way.
The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for the Chicago metro area Sunday afternoon. The warning is in effect from 6 p.m. Sunday until 9 a.m. Monday.
Issuing a blizzard warning is not common, said National Weather Service meteorologist Ricky Castro.
“The last time we had one out for Cook County was in February 2015, and then the one before that was February 2011,” Castro said. “So it’s really not a common thing to have a blizzard warning around here, especially this time of year.”
The weather already is responsible for the cancellation of more than 700 flights from area airports, and transportation officials said car travel will be hazardous as well.
At the height of the storm, more than 2 inches of snow an hour is possible, according to the weather service, combined with winds gusting 40 to 50 mph. The far northwest suburbs could see about 12 inches of snow, according to the weather service, with 10 inches possible at O’Hare, 6 inches possible at Midway and then several inches likely for the immediate shoreline and downtown Chicago.
Snow is expected to hit the north and west parts of the Chicago area from 5 to 7 p.m. and transition to the southeast.
The storm, which could bring reduced visibility and whiteout conditions at times, will be at its worst in Chicago around midnight, weather service meteorologist Todd Kluber said.
Because the worst of the conditions are expected tonight, it’s unclear how treacherous Monday’s commute will be, Castro said.
“That’s not something that we can forecast,” he said. “We’re still expecting snow tomorrow morning, but accumulations will be light in the morning hours.”
Castro said that regardless of what happens in the morning, “it’s just best to stay indoors if you don’t have to go anywhere.”
Travelers flying back home after the holiday weekend may face their own set of challenges. As of late Sunday afternoon, 601 flights were canceled at O’Hare and 123 were canceled at Midway. Both airports were experiencing average delays of less than 15 minutes, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation.
The combination of the heavy snow and strong winds could also result in damage to power lines, so the weather service has warned Chicagoans to be prepared for power outages.
Because of the below-freezing temperatures expected to stick around through Thursday, the snow won’t melt right away. Temperatures in the mid-30s will drop below freezing and hover in the upper 20s into Monday.
A lakeshore flood warning is also in effect for Cook County, and Lake and Porter counties in Indiana from 9 p.m. Sunday through noon Monday, as well as Lake County in Illinois from 9 a.m. to 6 a.m. Flooding is possible on Lake Shore Drive, with wind gusts up to 50 mph on the immediate shoreline and possible waves of 12 to 18 feet.
The Coast Guard issued a warning Sunday afternoon, urging people to stay away from the shoreline and remain off nearby paths, as first responders will not be able to launch rescue crews due to the high waves.
“Your venture in these areas can be deadly,” Master Chief Alan Haraf said in a news release.
And if you’re swept into the lake, “high waves, churning waters and hypothermia, which will set in quickly, can make it nearly impossible to get out of the water alive,” Haraf said.
For those getting behind the wheel Sunday, be prepared for slick roads, poor visibility and increased travel time, the weather service said.
“The main point is especially this evening into overnight, anyone that has travel plans, to consider postponing or adjusting their travel plans,” Kluber said. “Be prepared for slow and dangerous travel, and have emergency supplies available in the car in case you become stranded.”
“The IDOT snow-and-ice teams will be prepared, but the public should expect worsening driving conditions Sunday with travel becoming dangerous late in the day,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn in a news release from the Illinois Department of Transportation.
IDOT travel tips include slowing down, increasing driving distance and remaining patient when encountering a plow during travels and, if an emergency strikes, dialing *999 in the Chicago area for roadway assistance.
The weather service recommends keeping an emergency supply kit in your vehicle, with a cellphone charger, water and snacks, a flashlight, warm clothing, a blanket and a first-aid kit. The kit recommendations also include jumper cables, tire chains or snow tires, flares, a full tank of gas, a bag of sand, tow rope and a shovel, ice scraper and snow brush.
As of Sunday, Chicago had received 3.6 inches of snow in November — a half-inch above average for this time in the month, according to the weather service.