Chicago hit with snow to end unusually warm January — what to expect next

After an unusually warm and snowless start to the year, winter finally hit Chicago on Wednesday.

Even with the 3-plus inches of snow, Chicago’s total snowfall this season is 10 inches below average, according to the National Weather Service.

And temperatures have remained stubbornly high for January — 10 degrees higher than usual.

But Wednesday’s snowfall marks an end to a stretch of warm and snowless weather not seen in the city in years.

"We’re in for a pattern change," said Scott Baker, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s office in Romeoville. "To be this warm is pretty rare."

O’Hare Airport reported 3.5 inches of snow by noon, while Midway Airport reported 3 inches, according to the Weather Service.

Light snow was expected to fall through the evening. Temperatures will dip into the 20s and teens in the days ahead, and another large snowfall could hit Saturday.


Snow began falling around 2 a.m. Wednesday, with the heaviest snowfall in the hours before 7 a.m., according to the weather service. With temperatures hanging around freezing Wednesday, snow was melting into slush on the roads, slowing traffic.

The weather service had predicted up to 4 inches of snow and had issued a winter weather advisory through 6 p.m., but the weather service canceled the advisory at 1:57 p.m. because the snow was no longer impacting travel.

As of 1:20 p.m., 230 flights were canceled at Chicago’s two airports. At O’Hare Airport, 501 flights were delayed; at Midway, 44 fights were delayed, according to the flight-tracking website

Chicago’s average temperature has averaged 35 degrees, well above the usual 25 degrees.

Only three other years in Chicago’s recorded history had Januarys as warm as this year. January 2006 had an average temperature of 35.8 degrees, Baker said. January 1933 averaged 36.7 degrees. The warmest January on record was in 1880 when Chicago averaged 39.8 degrees.

The season has been relatively snowless, too. The city has seen only 8.6 inches of snow this season, well below the usual 18 to 19 inches, Baker said.

The area will enter a stretch of cold weather and regular snowfall through next week, Baker said. The snow will likely stay on the ground as temperatures remain below freezing, he said.

The next chance of heavy snow is Saturday afternoon and evening, but it’s too early to tell how much might fall, Baker said.

Weather Analysis from FOX 32's Chief Meteorologist Emily Wahls

Our system snow is winding down, and we'll be left with scattered snow showers Wednesday night with lows dropping into the upper 20s. More snow is in the forecast for Thursday, and we could see some heavier snow showers in the mix at times. As far as accumulations go Thursday, most areas only see a dusting to a half inch. Another weak system passes through on Friday, and we could see a quick inch of accumulation with highs in the mid 30s.

Our next impactful system looks to be here on Saturday. Accumulating snow is looking more and more likely, although our south suburbs could see a rain/snow mix. Too early to throw out totals with confidence, but it seems safe to say that a few inches of snow appear possible, especially for the northern half of the viewing area.

A few leftover snow showers are possible on Sunday, and then we'll get a break from the snow on Monday. The big weather story for next week will be the colder temperatures. Highs will be in the upper teens and low 20s with low temperatures in the single digits.

Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.