The storm system that dumped 15 inches of snow in parts of Oklahoma and buffeted the Texas panhandle with 80-mph wind gusts on Monday has made its way to Chicago, and things are getting messy.
A combination of sleet and wet snow began falling in the south suburbs Tuesday morning, and by late morning the mix had reached downtown Chicago, with temperatures hovering near or slightly above freezing.
By about 2 p.m., there was snow across the area and it will keep coming down through the Tuesday evening commute.
By Wednesday morning, there could be 3 to 5 inches on the ground, according to the National Weather Service, which has issued a winter weather advisory through 9 p.m. Tuesday. Higher amounts could call in the western and northern suburbs, with lower totals to the south and in northwest Indiana.
Snow will continue into the early evening and may be heavy at times. With wind gusts as high as 35 to 40 mph -- higher near Lake Michigan -- the wind-whipped snow could cause low visibilities and difficult travel conditions at times this afternoon and evening, according to the weather service.
Snowfall rates of more than an inch per hour could occur and this could also “significantly impact” travel at O’Hare and Midway airports, the weather service says.
By about 1:30 p.m., many weather spotters were reporting heavy snow and blowing and drifting throughout the area, according to the weather service. In Batavia, 3.3 inches of snow were reported, 2.3 inches was reporetd in Carol Stream, and 2 inches in Wheaton, according to the weather service.
More than 250 flights hace been cancelled at O’Hare as of early Tuesday afternoon, while more than 140 flights had been cancelled at Midway. Delays were averaging 15-45 minutes at O’Hare, while only minor delays were reported at Midway.
The snow has also led many school districts in the suburbs to cancel after-school activities, and many sent students after a shortened school day.
Additionally, the weather service is warning area residents that what falls will likely be a heavy, wet snow, “sometimes referred to as heart attack snow” and that people should take extra care not to over-exert themselves while shoveling.
While there was, as of early Tuesday afternoon, a high degree of uncertainty as far as what the total accumulation of snow will be, the best estimate of the weather service as of 12:30 p.m. was that anywhere from 3 to 6 inches could fall across the area, with a slight chance of isolated thundersnow, which could result in isolated totals of more than 6 inches. Snow may diminish in intensity this evening but should continue to accumulate.
The Illinois Tollway is preparing to mobilize its full fleet of 182 snowplows in response to the expected sleet and snow. The Tollway’s Snow Operations Center will be open to manage the agency’s systemwide response.
A full complement of more than 200 staff and supervisors per shift to ensure that roadways are kept clear of snow and ice, a statement from the Tollway said. To help with snow removal efforts, tall temporary lane closures had been cancelled as of 9 a.m. Tuesday through 7 a.m. Thursday.
In Chicago, the city Department of Streets & Sanitation has deployed its full feet of 284 plows onto the main routes and Lake Shore Drive. In addition, additional resources have been deployed to the Far South Side to ensure access to polling places for the 2nd Congressional District primary.
The trucks will work to first salt and clear the main streets, and then focus efforts on residential streets, a Streets & San statement said.
In noting that most counties in north central Indiana are under the winter weather advisory, the Indiana State Police note that throughout the day, periods of snowfall and possible ice accumulation up to a quarter-inch are being forecast for northern Indiana.
This combination can cause visibility to be reduced and road conditions to change quickly, and state police have issued tips for driving in these conditions, which include: slowing down on snow or ice-covered roads; clearing ice and snow from vehicle windows, hoods, roofs and lights; avoiding abrupt stops and starts; allowing extra time to reach your destination; and before traveling, checking the forecast and let someone know your route.
Lighter snow will likely continue to fall at least through Thursday, forecasters said, as the system stalls over the Great Lakes region. By Thursday, high temperatures in the Chicago area could be in the mid-30s, according to the weather service.