1000 flights canceled during winter storm; more lake effect snow expected

(CHICAGO) Heavy snow, high winds and frigid temperatures pummeled the Chicago area in the region’s first winter storm of 2019, contributing to more than 1000 flight cancelations by Saturday afternoon.

Two to 5 inches of additional lake effect snow is expected between 8 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. Sunday, the National Weather Service said in a Winter Weather Advisory.

The snowy weather was apparently responsible for a United Airlines jet skidding off a runway at O’Hare Saturday afternoon. No one was reported injured.

Friday night’s storm pushed into northern Illinois overnight and dumped 5 inches of snow by noon Saturday at O’Hare International Airport, and 5.3 inches at Midway International Airport, the weather service said. About 8.5 inches of snowfall was reported in northwest suburban Palatine.

Air travel suffered disruptions, with O’Hare Airport reporting 967 flight cancelations by 3 p.m. Saturday, and Midway reporting 86 cancelations, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation.

Drivers faced a dangerous Saturday morning commute, with the worst hazards, including ice-covered roads and gusts up to 35 mph, mainly north of I-88, the weather service said.

The storm tapered off by noon Saturday, with snow totals reaching the bottom end of the predicted 5 to 9 inches of snowfall, the weather service said.

A lakeshore flood warning was in effect until 9 a.m. Sunday, with waves in Lake Michigan possibly reaching 10 feet high, the weather service said. People were warned to stay away from piers, jetties and the Chicago bike path trail.

Daytime high temperatures hovered in the upper 20s on Friday and were forecasted to remain so on Saturday. Nighttime Saturday temperatures could plummet to 12 degrees, and reach as high as 17 on Sunday, the weather service said.

Temperatures could plunge into single-digits Sunday night, with a high near 19 expected on Monday, the weather service said. Wind chills could fall to 18 degrees below zero over the weekend, with temperatures staying below 20 until at least Thursday.

Saturday night, Chicago’s Department of Streets and Sanitation deployed 287 plows and salt trucks, the department said. Crews worked on arterial routes and Lake Shore Drive before moving to residential streets about noon Saturday.

Friday evening, the Chicago Skyway ramp to the Dan Ryan Expressway closed due to weather conditions, IDOT said.

In anticipation of the snow, Amtrak canceled Saturday service of its Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited lines, which connect Chicago to Washington D.C. and New York.

Nicor Gas officials said residents should use caution when removing snow or ice from gas meters, and call 911 or Nicor’s 24-hour emergency line at (888) 642-6748 to report gas leaks.

Chicagoans who need to get out of the cold can call 311 for information about the nearest warming center or overnight shelter. Cook County officials have also released a list of suburban warming centers. State officials also provide information about warming centers online, or at (847) 411-9276.