Winter storm warning in effect for Chicago area

Snow, sleet and ice expected
Officials are urging the public to take public transportation in the morning. The commute may be a mess.

Many schools are closed already.

Three hundred flights were canceled at O'Hare Airport. Thirty flights were canceled at Midway Airport.

The city is preparing its entire fleet of snow fighting trucks to help keep the streets clear for the morning rush hour.

Those charged with keeping the streets clear in Chicago and the suburbs are thankful the storm has been postponed until after Thursday's afternoon rush.

City officials are preparing to monitor the city conditions. Despite recent efforts to trim overtime costs at the Office of Emergency Management and Communications in Chicago, the Streets and Sanitation Department says it will use all 270 snowplows and salters around the clock until the streets are clear.

"If we get what I think we're going to get tonight, and we're looking at six, seven inches, I'll keep those trucks on the route. They won't have to come in for salt because we'll just be plowing. Once we're done with the arterials, all those trucks will be dispatched into the side streets to clear the side streets," said Cmsr. Mike Picardi of Chicago Streets & Sanitation.

At the circle interchange on Thursday afternoon, a spot that can be tight even on the perfect days weatherwise, traffic was flowing since the storm hadn't hit the city yet.

Officials at Streets and Sanitation said as long as the snow machine wraps up and shuts down by 4:00 a.m., they think they can have the main streets in the city clear for Friday's afternoon rush.

Tips for driving in snow and ice

If you have to be out driving in the snow and ice or if you need to shovel snow there are safety precautions to keep in mind.

The experts say the best advice is that if you can avoid the storm do so and go home early. In other words, try to stay off the roads.

However, if you have to drive go slow and plan your route carefully. Futhermore, understand how to handle your vehicle. Read the owners' manual to learn how your car works.

Navigating nasty roads in miserable weather can be a nail biting experience. Severe weather can both be frightening and dangerous for automobile travel.

"Make sure you have your which he will phone, your charger, gloves, things to keep warm. If the doors or locked you don't want to throw hot water on it because that can refreeze it or even cause glass to break," said Nicole Niemi of AAA.

Extreme temperatures make vehicles more likely to break down if maintenance is not performed. Some Chicagoans are getting ready for the storm.

"I'm making sure my tank's full and keeping the oil checked and everything ready to go," said Mike Donegan.

"I checked with the car dealer. Got my oil changed, checked the tires," saidMarc Hernandez.

Road conditions can leave vehicles sliding off the road and becoming stuck in the snow. Beware of black ice.

"Brake before you get to a spot like that. If you brake on the ice, that's what causes you to skid," said Niemi.

AAA's tips:

- Make sure tires are properly inflated

- Stay in vehicle if you become snowbound

- Tie a bright colored cloth to the antenna

- Make sure exhaust pipe is not clogged

- Run engine long enough to conserve gas

- Maintain adequate distance from vehicles in front of you

- Recognize and slow down at dangerous zones

- Keep in mind that hard acceleration is likely to worsen the situation by causing the tires to dig the car deeper into the snow.

"Try to keep both hands on the steering wheel and drive straight. Snow removal can be dangerous," said Niemi.

Lynne Braun, a nurse practitioner at Rush University Medical Center, says it can be dangerous to remove snow from your driveway and home.

"If someone is going to use a regular snow shovel, don't fill it very full," said Braun.

Braun also says keep yourself protected from freezing temperatures.

"People need to wear layers and make sure that their hand and apenciled images are covered," said Braun.

Hot weather is actually more hazardous to your health. Braun says do not take a storm and freezing temperatures for granted. If you are not feeling well and have shortness of breath and do not feel well, go to a hospital.

Chicago flights canceled as Illinois awaits storm

Winter storm warnings are posted for what could be the biggest storm of the season.

More than 100 flights have been canceled at Chicago's two main airports as Illinois braces for a storm that promises heavy snow and, in some places, ice.

The Chicago Department of Aviation says more than 100 flights were canceled at O'Hare International Airport by early afternoon Thursday. More than two dozen had been canceled at Midway International. Passengers at both airports are warned to arrive at least two hours early.

The National Weather Service expects the storm to drop up to 14 inches of snow in parts of northern Illinois Thursday night and Friday. A combination of snow and sleet is forecast for the Chicago area, with about a foot possible.

The weather service is predicting up to an inch of ice from the Peoria area to Kankakee.

Many schools sent students home early Thursday ahead of the storm.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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