Early words of wisdom for this winter in Chicago

This picture of a cold Chicago was captured by Barry Butler Photography on February 17th, 2021. 

Try all we want but there is no stopping winter from coming for Chicago. 

We get a sneak preview of winter this weekend, at least in terms of temperatures. Our highs will only hit the upper 30s Saturday and Sunday, so it will feel more like early December than early November.

The National Weather Service can help you prepare for the cold and snow that is inevitably coming. They are hosting two "Virtual Winter Weather Preparedness and Spotter Training" webinars. The first is this Thursday and the second is the following Thursday with both being held from 6:30-8:00 in the evening. 

Topics to be covered include winter weather safety, a 2022-2023 winter outlook and winter weather science. You can also learn how to properly measure and report snowfall and ice accumulation.


We've already seen snow this fall. We picked up our first trace of the season back on Oct. 17. That was about two weeks ahead of schedule. We normally see the first measurable snow (.1" or more) in about a week. The average first date for that event is Nov. 18. 

The first real snow of the season can catch drivers off guard because we aren't used to driving in snow yet. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, "each year, 24% of weather-related vehicle crashes occur on snowy, slushy or icy pavement and 15 percent happen during snowfall or sleet." Over 1,300 people are killed and nearly 117,000 people are injured in vehicle crashes nationwide annually when streets are snowy, slushy or icy.  

We have a mixed menu of precipitation types here in Chicago. We can see anything from plain old rain to freezing rain to sleet to snow. The National Weather Service reminds us that freezing rain is the worst of the bunch. Illinois' state climatologist Dr. Jim Angel has written a summary on freezing rain occurrence in our state. Central Illinois is more favored for the slippery stuff but northern Illinois sees its share too.  

The stuff we have trouble seeing is a hazard too. The National Weather Service wants to make everyone aware that bridges freeze first. The Illinois Department of Transportation offers many safe driving tips on their website that includes the following:

  • Slow down. Slower speeds, slower acceleration, slower steering and slower braking all are required in winter driving conditions.
  • Drop it and drive. Put down the handheld devices – it, too, is the law in Illinois.
  • Don’t crowd the plow. A snowplow operator’s field of vision is restricted. You may see them, but they may not see you.
  • Avoid using cruise control in snow and ice.
  • Be especially careful approaching intersections, ramps, bridges and shady areas. All are prone to icing.
  • Do not travel during bad weather unless absolutely necessary. If you do have to make a trip, check the forecast and make sure someone is aware of your travel route. Consider taking public transportation if it is an option.
  • Prepare an emergency kit that contains jumper cables, flares or reflectors, windshield washer fluid, a small ice scraper, traction material, blankets, non-perishable food and a first-aid kit.
  • Carry a cell phone and a car charger in case of emergency.
  • Follow Scott’s Law. Slow down and move over for stopped emergency, construction and maintenance vehicles.

Let's not forget about black ice. Not matter what winter hazard may hit, drivers can check GettingAroundIllinois.com for updated information on winter road conditions.  

I would be remiss not to mention Fox 32 Chicago's traffic report as a resource. Last but not least, you can check the weather conditions and get updated forecasts from me and my friends in the Fox 32 Weather office. Winter is coming….