CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire)A winter storm is expected to move through the Chicago area Sunday, potentially causing white-out conditions and dumping up to ten inches of snow as millions of travelers head home at the end of the holiday weekend.
From 6 p.m. Sunday until 9 a.m. Monday, heavy snowfall and wind gusts up to 50 mph are expected to impact Cook, DuPage, Kendall, Grundy and Will counties, according to a winter storm warning from the National Weather Service.
A blizzard warning will remain in effect until 9 a.m. Monday across much of northern Illinois, with the storm expected to “create life threatening travel conditions” Sunday night, according to the weather service. During the storm, heavy snowfall and wind gusts up to 50 mph are expected to impact the area.
Downed tree limbs and power lines are expected to cause power outages throughout northern Illinois as the storm moves through, the weather service said.
Snow might fall as fast as two inches per hour and cause periodic life-threatening blizzard conditions, with the heaviest snowfall expected in the northwest suburbs, according to the weather service. As of 6 p.m., seven inches of snow had fallen in north suburban Rockford, breaking the record for the heaviest snowfall in Rockford in November. The previous record was 6.6 inches in 1995, the weather service said.
The National Weather Service published a “traveler’s guide” Sunday evening, warning motorists that driving during a blizzard warning is “not advised.”
“We urge you to postpone non-emergency travel,” the weather service said on Twitter.
Holiday travelers were facing delays and cancellations at both of the city’s airports as the storm pushed into the area on Sunday afternoon.
As of 7:30 p.m., 740 flights had been canceled at O’Hare International Airport, while 399 others were facing delays, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation. At Midway International Airport, 124 flights had been canceled and 80 more were delayed.
Average delays at both airports were lasting more than 15 minutes, the CDA said.
The window for safe travel in Chicago could extend into Sunday afternoon, especially in the southwest suburbs, the weather service said. Travelers were told to beware of rain transitioning with little notice into heavy, wet snow on Sunday afternoon. Drivers should then use extreme caution on snow-covered roads with reduced visibility.
“This storm is expected to hit at a time when millions of people are on the roads, heading home after visiting friends and family,” Illinois Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn said in a statement. “Please take all necessary precautions, including altering travel plans to leave early or asking yourself if your trip can wait.”
Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications advised drivers to travel with “essential items,” like jumper cables, flares or reflectors, windshield washer fluid, an ice scraper, traction material, non-perishable food, a first-aid kit, a cellphone and a mobile charger.
Cook County’s Department of Transportation and Highways also advised drivers keep items like flashlights, a battery powered radio, matches, small candles, water bottles, necessary medications, and extra batteries, socks, mittens and hats in an emergency kit in their vehicles.
Lakeshore flooding was expected to coincide with the storm, which could create waves as high as 16 feet in Cook County, the weather service said.
Due to the conditions, the U.S. Coast Guard advised people to stay off of Lake Michigan and away from beaches and other areas near the shore.
“Unsuspecting waves can sweep you into the Lake,” Master Chief Alan Haraf said in a statement. “Once that happens, high waves, churning waters and hypothermia, which will set in quickly, can make it nearly impossible to get out of the water alive.”
“Due to the high waves predicted, first responders will not be able to launch rescues crews on the water,” added Haraf, who noted that 39 people have already drowned in Lake Michigan this year.
On Sunday afternoon, temperatures are expected to reach 39 degrees before dipping to the low-30s at night, the weather service said.
Monday’s forecast calls for partly sunny conditions and a chance of more snowfall, the weather service said. Daytime temperatures are expected to stay above 30 degrees before falling into the teens during the nighttime hours.