Ice storm starts moving into Chicago area: weather service

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(Photo credit: National Weather Service)

An ice storm that started moving into the Chicago area Tuesday night could drop over a quarter-inch of freezing rain and make travel nearly impossible on some roadways, according to the National Weather Service.

Ice accumulations could total between one-tenth to four-tenths of an inch, the weather service said in an ice storm warning that remains in effect until 6 a.m. Wednesday. The highest amounts of freezing rain are expected to move northeast from Morris to Joliet to downtown Chicago.

In Chicago, the freezing rain will give way to normal rainfall around 2 a.m. Wednesday, the weather service said. Some thunderstorms could also affect the area during that time.

True ice storms are uncommon in this part of the county, according to the weather service, which noted that Chicago hasn’t been issued a similar warning since the end of 2009.

On Wednesday, scattered showers are expected throughout the day, the weather service said. A high of 38 degrees is in the forecast, with temperatures expected to drop to the mid-30s at night.

More than 180 schools, churches and community centers throughout the area have canceled evening classes and activities on Tuesday or announced late starts Wednesday morning, according to the Emergency Closing Center.

Service of suburban buses and South Shore Line trains could be adversely affected by the ice storm, according to statements from Pace and the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District.

Metra warned riders that slippery platforms, parking lots and roadways were expected during the morning commute. Commuters were urged to allow extra travel time and advised to use caution while getting on and off trains, Metra said in a tweet.

Metra was also running Electric District Line trains overnight “to prevent ice from accumulating on the overhead wires,” the rail agency tweeted.

Officials in Cook County urged residents “to use extreme caution through the duration of the storm,” according to a statement from Natalia Derevyanny, a county spokeswoman.

County officials warned of hazardous travel conditions and advised drivers to look out for downed tree limbs and power lines, Derevyanny said. In addition, officials warned against touching anything a downed power line has come into contact with, including vehicles.

Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications advised people to report downed wires, fallen trees and traffic signal outages by calling 311, visiting the 311 website or using the new CHI 311 mobile app, according to a statement from the agency. Residents can also use the city’s non-emergency line to request ice and snow removal.

Chicago’s Department of Streets and Sanitation deployed more than 300 salt spreaders Tuesday afternoon, while the Illinois Tollway was mobilizing its full fleet of 196 plows to spread salt and other de-icing materials ahead of the winter storm, according to statements from OEMC and the tollway.