Chicago snowstorm: Nightmare before Christmas with blizzard conditions, frigid temps, canceled flights

Some are calling it the nightmare before Christmas.

The snow is falling, and a winter storm warning is now in effect for most of the Chicago area.

With this storm impacting more than two-dozen states, President Joe Biden is issuing a nationwide warning.

Flight cancelations are now topping 1,800, with many of those right here in Chicago.

A powerful arctic winter storm has brought with it frigid temperatures, snow and ice, and combine that with strong winds for limited visibility.

On Thursday, President Biden issued a warning to Americans to take these winter storm warnings "very seriously" and plan their travel accordingly.

"It's not like a snow day, you know, when you're a kid. This is serious stuff. And my team is prepared to help communities weather this. No pun intended," Biden said.

The Biden administration has contacted 26 governors from the affected regions and is ready to provide assistance if necessary.


At Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, more than 560 flights were canceled Thursday.

At Midway, cancelations were also climbing throughout the day, with at least 250 flights grounded.

The weather is causing major headaches for holiday travelers, and the number of cancelations is only growing at this hour.

Early Thursday, O’Hare saw a mad rush of passengers hoping to beat security lines and make their flights.

An estimated 4,500 people made their way through the airport in just an hour. On a busy morning, O’Hare typically only sees an average of 2,500 travelers.

Meanwhile, with so many canceled flights, Midway was quiet by this afternoon. Some travelers were getting comfortable for a long wait.

"I'm grateful because my ticket was purchased ahead of the knowledge that a storm was coming, so I'm really grateful," said Jackie Watkins, who was flying to Dallas.

"We had to change our flight from Friday to this morning. We actually stayed in a hotel last night right across the street just to make sure we could get here in plenty of time, three hours early. We knew it was going to be a disaster here today. So we just didn't want to risk anything with all the changes we had already made," said Mark Ortman, who was traveling to Colorado.

We also want to remind families of Chicago’s heat ordinance, which requires landlords to supply heat to units during the winter. Indoor temperatures must be at least 68 degrees during the day, and no less than 66 degrees overnight. You can report any issues to the city by calling 311.

In the meantime, warming centers in Chicago and across neighboring communities are now open.

In Chicago, the 24/7 warming site is at the Garfield Center. Aurora has an overnight center located in its Transportation Center on North Broadway.

The Chicago Park District is turning their Fieldhouse locations into warming centers. They have also dispatched more than 200 pieces of equipment to clear snow and ice along the lakefront and parks.

The Salvation Army is also opening warming centers Thursday through Saturday at the Salvation Army Freedom Center located at 825 N. Christiana Avenue, and at the Salvation Army Mayfair Community Center located at 5020 N. Pulaski Rd.

You can also find warming sites in your community by dialing 311.

The storm is leading to many Friday closures. All suburban Cook County courthouses will be closed on Friday.

Bond court hearings in DuPage County will be held Friday morning, only, at the Wheaton courthouse.

Kane County officials have decided to host hearings via Zoom because of the forecast.

In Lake County, Friday had already been scheduled as a court holiday.

Metra is reducing service on most of its lines on Friday. For most commuter lines, trains will follow a Saturday schedule.

The Shedd Aquarium also announced they will be closed Friday and Saturday due to the storm. They're also closed Sunday because of Christmas.

Meanwhile, Illinois State Police, the Illinois Department of Transportation and Illinois Tollway authorities all urged residents to postpone unnecessary trips amid the storm.

The snow will intensify into Thursday evening, moving across the Chicago area into Indiana.

Just like the temperatures, prices for this weekend's Chicago Bears game are dropping fast.

The Bears are hosting the Buffalo Bills on Saturday — a contest that could end up among the coldest games ever played on the lakefront.

Grandstand seats that typically go for about $150 apiece are now on the block for just $15 before fees on all the major ticket resale websites.

Under the forecasted conditions, frost bite can occur in just 30 minutes.