Sun Times

Post-Blizzard Roads To Snarl Chicago-Area Morning Commutes

November 26, 2018 - 6:16 am

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Snowfall was winding down in the Chicago area early Monday, following a blizzard that caused white-out conditions and dumped up to a foot of snow as millions of travelers headed home at the end of the holiday weekend.

The blizzard warning was in effect until Monday morning across much of northern Illinois, creating “create life threatening travel conditions” Sunday night, according to the National Weather Service. During the storm, heavy snowfall and wind gusts up to 50 mph impacted the area.

Just before rush hour, the NWS downgraded the warning in Cook, DuPage and Will counties from a blizzard to a winter storm that will last until 9 a.m. Blizzard warnings remained in effect across much of northern Illinois until 6 a.m.

As of 6 a.m., 7.4 inches of snow had fallen at O’Hare International Airport, marking the fifth-largest two-day snowfall in recorded history for the month of November, the weather service said. Strong winds continued at 40 mph, and “blowing and drifting” snow was expected through the morning, mainly north and west of the city.

Chicago’s biggest November storm on record dropped 12 inches on the city between Nov. 25 and Nov. 26 1895, according to the weather service.

The Illinois Department of Transportation was warning of ice and snow-slicked roads just before rush hour. As of about 6:30 a.m., the Edens, Kennedy and Stevenson Expressways were mostly covered with ice or snow, while the Dan Ryan and the I-57 were partly covered, the weather service said.

Those riding the Metra into the city were met with bad luck Monday morning. Over three dozen trains were either behind schedule or canceled, according to the transit agency’s online tracker. The most impacted routes included the Metra Electric, Union Pacific, North Central and Milwaukee District lines.

Lakeshore flooding also coincided with the storm, creating waves as high as 16 feet in Cook County, the weather service said. A flood warning was in effect until noon Monday.

Just before 4 a.m., waves from Lake Michigan were reportedly inching close to Lake Shore Drive, the NWS said. The lakeshore bike path from Oak Street to North Avenue was submerged early Monday.

Due to the conditions, the U.S. Coast Guard advised people to stay off of Lake Michigan and away from beaches and other areas near the shore.

“Unsuspecting waves can sweep you into the Lake,” Master Chief Alan Haraf said in a statement. “Once that happens, high waves, churning waters and hypothermia, which will set in quickly, can make it nearly impossible to get out of the water alive.”

“Due to the high waves predicted, first responders will not be able to launch rescues crews on the water,” added Haraf, who noted that 39 people have already drowned in Lake Michigan this year.

At about 11:30 p.m. Sunday, many parts of the city began experiencing “thundersnow” – an unusual phenomenon where thunderstorms hit with temperatures cold enough to produce snow, according to the weather service.

The weather service advised Chicagoans to put off outdoor activities like snow blowing and shoveling to avoid potential lightening strikes during the storm. The last time Chicago experienced a thundersnow storm was in 2011, the service said.

“Just because it is snowing, does not diminish the dangers from lightning,” NWS tweeted. “Remember, if you’re close enough to hear thunder or see lightning, you should seek shelter indoors.”

Downed tree limbs and power lines overnight were also causing power troubles throughout northern Illinois, the weather service said. The Chicago area was reporting tens of thousands of power outages — 24,150 of them in the city as of Monday 7 a.m.

Snow fell as quickly as two inches per hour and caused periodic life-threatening blizzard conditions through 4 a.m., with the heaviest snowfall coming in the northwest suburbs. As of 12 a.m. Monday, 11.7 inches of snow had fallen in north suburban Rockford, breaking that city’s record for the heaviest snowfall in November. The previous record was 9.5 inches in 1951, the weather service said.

Conditions were most severe through 4 a.m. Monday south of the city and through 2 a.m. Monday toward the west, according to the weather service.

Holiday travelers were already facing delays and cancellations at both of the city’s airports as the storm pushed into the area.

As of 5 a.m. Monday, 348 flights had been canceled at O’Hare International Airport, while 92 were facing delays, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation. At Midway International Airport, 66 flights had been canceled and seven more were delayed.

Average delays at O’Hare were lasting 24 minutes, the CDA said. Midway was seeing less than 15 minutes in delays

The National Weather Service published a “traveler’s guide” Sunday evening, warning motorists that driving during a blizzard warning is “not advised.”

“We urge you to postpone non-emergency travel,” the weather service said on Twitter.

During the blizzard, Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications advised drivers to travel with “essential items,” like jumper cables, flares or reflectors, windshield washer fluid, an ice scraper, traction material, non-perishable food, a first-aid kit, a cellphone and a mobile charger.

Temperatures reached 39 degrees Sunday afternoon before dipping to the low-30s at night, the weather service said.

Monday’s forecast calls for partly sunny conditions and a chance of more snowfall, the weather service said. Daytime temperatures are expected to stay above 30 degrees before falling into the teens during the nighttime hours.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire & Chicago Sun-Times 2018. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)