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December cold snap in Chicago

Chicago got the season’s first sub-zero temperature overnight, and another system could bring more snow Tuesday night.

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For the 12th time this season, snow is headed for Chicago. As much as half a foot.

A front lifting out of the Texas Panhandle and drawing moisture from the Gulf of Mexico will spread across northern Missouri and southern Illinois before hitting the Chicago area this evening.

snowThe National Weather Service has issued a winter weather advisory from 10 p.m. today until 6 p.m. Saturday for the Chicago area. Generally, areas south of Interstate 80 will be hit the hardest.

Between 4 to 6 inches could fall across southern Cook County and 2 to 4 inches across north and central Cook, including Chicago, according to the weather service. The snow could fall up to a half-inch an hour around midnight, making travel hazardous, the weather service warned.

The Department of Streets and Sanitation deployed 200 snow plows and salt spreaders at 11 p.m. Friday to handle accumulation into Saturday.

The northeast flow on the back side of the storm could prolong snowfall in Chicago by enhancing the impact of lake-effect snow, according to the Chicago Weather Center.

The downstate counties of Iroquois and Ford and the Indiana counties of Newton, Benton and Jasper are under a winter weather warning, according to the weather service. Affected cities include Watseka, Paxton, Morocco, Rensselaer and Fowler.

Chicago Tribune Staff report and WGN-TV

Cold temps like these mean car trouble for a lot of folks.

From tires that go flat to door locks that freeze to batteries that go dead, auto clubs are getting swamped with calls.

WGN’s Erik Rung has more.

No snow today, but plenty of arctic air to go around.

Our Thursday starts with temperatures near zero and wind chills 10 to 20 degrees below zero. Even with a mixture of sunshine and clouds today temps will struggle to reach 20 this afternoon. Wind chills will make it feel more like 5 degrees.

We’ll be partly cloudy, but not as cold tonight with lows in the low to mid-teens.

Friday will bring warmer temps, but more clouds.

Friday evening into Saturday we’ll watch a storm system pass to our south that is expected to bring accumulating snow to Chicagoland.

Two to five inches of snow is possible by the time the system leaves Saturday afternoon.


The National Weather Service has issued a wind chill advisory from 6 p.m. Wednesday until 10 a.m. Thursday. It warned that temperatures will fall into the single digits this afternoon and below zero this evening. Winds chills could be down to 10 to 20 below zero this afternoon and 15 to 30 below zero tonight.

Since Dec. 5, temperatures have been 14 to 16 degrees below average. Early Tuesday, it registered minus-6 degrees at O’Hare International Airport. That’s the earlier subzero temperature in Chicago since minus-4 was recorded at O’Hare on Dec. 9, 1995. It was also the coldest temperature in the first 10 days of December since minus-8 degrees on Dec. 10, 1978.


WGN’s Tonya Francisco is checking out the traffic situation on area expressways after morning snow fall

UPDATED 8:25 a.m. Light snow mainly south of downtown Chicago will continue to taper off over the next couple of hours.

Snowfall reports of around 1.5” has become a little more common across Chicagoland.  The highest amount being reported this morning have come out of Kendall county where 3” of snow has fallen in Yorkville.

Colder air is on its way into the region for the rest of today and temperatures are expected to be in the single digits by early this evening.  A Wind Chill Advisory is in effect from 6PM Wednesday until 5AM Thursday as we could see wind chill values 15 to 25 degrees below zero.

Cold and breezy conditions will continue Thursday with partly sunny skies and highs around 19.

UPDATED 7:17 a.m.

Light snow continues this morning as a Winter Weather Advisory runs until 10AM.

As of 7AM 1.5-1.8” of snow has been reported in parts of Kane and Kendall County.  Many more locations across Chicagoland are reporting snowfall totals of less than 1” and closer to ½”.  Additional amounts of 1 inch are still possible through the mid-morning hours.

After the snow leaves the region we can expect another shot of arctic air.  Temperatures will likely fall into the single digits early this evening with overnight lows expected to fall be zero.  Wind chills overnight may reach 15 to 20 degrees below zero.  A Wind Chill Advisory runs from 6PM until Thursday at 5AM.

We’ll stay breezy and cold Thursday with highs in the upper teens.

UPDATED 6:17 a.m.

A Winter Weather Advisory continues until 10AM as a fast moving clipper system continues to bring light snow to the region.

As of 6AM snowfall totals around ½” have been reported in a handful of locations across northeastern Illinois with a few spots reporting slightly more.  Total amounts of 1-2” are possible with a few localized higher amounts before the snow ends later this morning.

Colder air will follow the snow as temperatures fall into the single digits this evening.  A Wind Chill Advisory is in effect from 6PM until 5AM Thursday.  Wind chills overnight may reach 15 to 20 degrees below zero.

Partly sunny and breezy conditions are expected Thursday with highs in the upper teens.

UPDATED 4:45 a.m.

A Winter Weather Advisory remains in effect until 10 a.m.

Northeastern Illinois isn’t being hit by a huge winter storm, but the timing of the system could cause rather large headaches.

Light snow has already spread across the region with the clipper system, and could fall at a rate of up to one inch per hour during the morning commute.  Accumulations are expected to average between 1 and 3 inches with a few spots possibly picking up as much as 4 inches of snowfall through the mid to late morning.

Once the snow maker moves out more cold air moves in.  Strengthening northwest winds will usher in the cold air as temperatures are expected to fall into the single digits by sundown.

A Wind Chill Advisory goes into effect from Wednesday at 6PM until Thursday at 5AM.

Overnight lows are forecast to drop below zero with wind chills -15 to -20 degrees.  Temperatures won’t rebound much Thursday with highs in the upper teens under partly sunny skies.  Wind chill values will remain around 3-4 degrees.

WGN’s traffic department is keeping tabs on delays and accidents on area expressways:

It’s still early, but winter is already giving us its best shot. A couple of them.

After the coldest start to the season in nearly 20 years, an arctic clipper is expected to dump as much as 4 inches of snow on the Chicago area just in time for the morning rush Wednesday.

Then the temperatures will start to fall, fast and hard. By Wednesday evening, temperatures will be in the single digits. By midnight, it will range from 5 to 10 below zero in some places with wind chills of minus 15 to 25. Wind chills will remain below zero until sometime Friday.

And that’s when another system is expected to hit us with more snow for the weekend. The following week? “We’ll continue on the cold side of average,” said Kevin Birk, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service.

Then it will be Christmas week, which extended forecasts say will be cloudy and around 30 with a chance of flurries.

Birk cautioned that the wicked start to winter doesn’t necessarily mean it will stay that way.  “You can’t rule out a warm pattern in January,” he said.

Since Dec. 5, temperatures have been 14 to 16 degrees below average. Early Tuesday, it registered minus-6 degrees at O’Hare International Airport. That’s the earlier subzero temperature in Chicago since minus-4 was recorded at O’Hare on Dec. 9, 1995. It was also the coldest temperature in the first 10 days of December since minus-8 degrees on Dec. 10, 1978.

Temperatures as low as minus-13 were recorded in Aurora and Rochelle. DuPage Airport reported minus-10.

Lows are only expected to dip to 10-above Tuesday night and Wednesday, but snow will begin to fall with 3-4 inches expected during the morning commute. “It could be a mess waking up Wednesday morning,” said Ben Deubelbeiss, a meteorologist with the weather service.

The weather service has issued a winter weather advisory from midnight tonight through 10 a.m. Wednesday. The snow is expected to intensify between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m., “with snowfall rates of up to a half-inch per hour possible,” the weather service said.

The high may reach 21 before plummeting into the single digits in the evening and below zero overnight. Thursday’s high will range from 15 to 19 degrees.

The Illinois Department of Transportation will send out trucks around midnight to begin spreading salt and again at 3 a.m., according to IDOT spokeswoman Jae Miller.  There will be a total of 370 trucks on the road by about 4 a.m., well before the time rush hour, she said.

“It will essentially take us to our full compliment by rush hour,” said Miller.

If need be, the department could have as many as 1,860 trucks will be available statewide. trucks out statewide.

She said the concern is the single-digit temperatures with the snowfall. Crews will be adding calcium chloride to the sodium chloride salt they use. The calcium chloride aids the ability of the salt to stick to the ground when the temperature drops below 15 degrees, Miller said.

“We’ll be focusing our efforts on the expressways because we want to make sure the commute isn’t impacted,” she said.

IDOT crews will also hit state highways, Miller said.

The state has about 453,000 tons of salt on hand, she said. The average salt price in the state is about $52.56 per ton. Last year, the agency spread 540,000 tons of salt between December and April. In the Chicago area, which includes the six counties in the northeast part of the state, IDOT spread 159,000 tons of salt.

“There are no issues at all because of budgetary constraints,” Miller said. “We are anticipating a typical Illinois winter, similar to last year.”

Illinois Tollway officials will also be out on the roads with 182 snowplows in response to the expected snowfall. Officials also plan to have 200 staff and supervisors per shift to ensure the roads are clear, officials said in a statement.

To help with snow removal efforts, the Tollway has cancelled all temporary lane closures from 10 p.m. tonight until 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

Officials said the tollway began the winter season with 82,000 tons of salt, 41,000 gallons of liquid calcium chloride and 6,500 tons of roadway abrasives.

During the last year’s winter season, the tollway used 56,400 tons of salt, 26,000 gallons of liquid calcium chloride and 3,800 tons of roadway abrasives. The average salt usage per year over the last four years is 63,000 tons.

Officials said it takes crews 2,052 lane miles to de-ice and plow one pass of the Illinois Tollway system during a snow and ice storm – the equivalent of driving from Chicago to Los Angeles.

In a typical 12-hour shift, snow crews can make up to eight complete passes of the 2,052-lane mile system for a total coverage of more than 16,000 miles, officials said.

In a 24-hour storm operation, this would equate to more than 32,000 miles of coverage – the equivalent of driving coast to coast across the United States 10 times, according to the statement.


Week of winter weather


Winter Weather Advisory in effect for much of the Chicago Metro area from midnight to 10am Wednesday

Snow will overspread northern Illinois  from the west and northwest overnight reaching the Chicago between 4am-8am just in time to play havoc with the Wednesday morning commute.  While snow totals will not be excessive with general 1-3 inch, locally 4 inch totals expected, the combination  of the falling snow, gusty winds and temperatures near 20 will create slippery driving conditions.