CHICAGO - A major winter storm is plowing through the Chicagoland area and the system could dump up to eight inches of snow, which would be the largest snowfall of the season.
Beginning Monday afternoon through Tuesday evening, the Chicago area could see between 5 and 8 inches of snow, according to the National Weather Service.
Powerful winds could whip around the snow, causing hazards for commuters Monday evening and Tuesday morning, weather service meteorologist Matt Friedlein said. There’s also the potential for lakeshore flooding.
In addition, lake effect snow into Thursday could deliver several more inches across parts of the Chicago area, FOX 32 reports.
So far, winter in Chicago has seen surprisingly little snow.
O’Hare has recorded about half the snowfall it usually sees this time of year, Friedlein said. As of Thursday, the airport recorded 8.6 inches of snow this season.
But even if Monday’s snow doesn’t deliver the potential 8 inches, the two snow systems will play a large part in catching us up to the season’s average.
"We’ve been quiet," Friedlein said. "Even if we get 4 inches, that would be noteworthy."
The National Weather Service said at least 4 inches of snow is expected across most of an area stretching from central Kansas northeast to Chicago and southern Michigan. Parts of southeast Nebraska and western Iowa could get more than three times that much by Tuesday morning.
The weather service forecast the light snowfall that began around sunset Monday in northern Illinois was expected to get heavier overnight, with accumulation totaling about 3 to 6 inches by early Tuesday. Meteorologist Bett Borchardt forecast snowfall could total up to 8 inches or more before it ends Tuesday evening.
The last comparable snowfall in the area occurred in November 2018, when 8.4 inches of snow fell.
A winter weather advisory was issued Monday for northwest Indiana, where the weather service forecast 3 to 5 inches of snow by the time the storm leaves the area Tuesday. A mix of freezing drizzle was expected in the southern parts of the region.
The break in the relatively mild winter in northern Illinois may mean the rest of the season could be more active, said weather service meteorologist Matt Friedlein.
"Now, more active does not necessarily mean more snow," Friedlein told the Chicago Sun-Times. "If we stay on the milder side of things, that could be more rain or more mixed precipitation."
The city of Chicago on Monday warned residents that hazardous conditions are likely to impact Tuesday morning commutes and some power outages are possible due to the wet nature of the snow and gusting winds. City officials have dispatched about 280 salt spreaders to clear the city’s main streets and have created warming centers in libraries and park facilities for residents who have no heat because of the loss of power to their homes.
By late Monday, 120 flights had been cancelled at O’Hare and 48 flights at Midway international airports, with 15-minute delays at both facilities.
As the storm moves over the area and temperatures dip, warming areas are available at the city’s six community service centers for residents in need of refuge from the cold weather from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, the Department of Family and Support Services said.
Gary Mayor Jerome Prince declared a snow emergency late Monday, placing restrictions on where vehicles can park and prohibiting the pushing of snow from private property onto city streets. In addition, Prince closed city-owned buildings and facilities until Wednesday.
Several coronavirus testing sites in Nebraska and Iowa were closing early Monday because of the snow. More than 10 inches of snow had already fallen in parts of eastern Nebraska by Monday evening.
National Weather Service meteorologist Taylor Nicolaisen said 10 to 15 inches of snow was likely between York, Nebraska, and Des Moines, Iowa, and that it has been at least 15 years since that area received more than a foot of snow in a single storm.
"This is historic snow," said Nicolaisen, who is based near Omaha, Nebraska.
Officials urged drivers to stay off the roads during the storm, especially during the heaviest snowfall in the afternoon and evening. Nebraska State Patrol troopers responded to more than 200 weather-related incidents Monday.
"Do not travel unless it’s absolutely necessary," said Nebraska State Patrol Col. John Bolduc.
Roughly 250 semi trucks pulled off the road to wait out the storm at the Petro truck stop alongside Interstate 80 in York, Nebraska. Manager Rachael Adamson said she could see knee-high drifts and that the maintenance man had to go out every 30 minutes to shovel the sidewalks to keep up with the snow.
"We haven’t had this much snow in quite a few years," Adamson said.
Iowa State Patrol Sgt. Alex Dinkla said road conditions deteriorated quickly and numerous vehicles slid off roads in central Iowa.
"The big thing that people are seeing is that this snow system is packing a big punch," Dinkla said to the Des Moines Register. "As we have seen this system move into Iowa, the road conditions go from zero snow on the road to an immediate totally covered roadway in just a matter of minutes."
A section of eastbound Interstate 80 was closed in central Nebraska Monday afternoon following a crash. And Missouri officials urged drivers not to travel on Interstates 29 and 35 in northwest Missouri into Iowa. The agency said most roads in the area were covered with snow and heavy snow continued falling Monday afternoon.
"If northern Missouri or Iowa are part of your travel plan, please re-route or find a warm, safe place to wait out the storm," the Missouri Transportation Department said.
Sun-Times Media Wire and The Associated Press contributed to this report.