Winter Storm Warning now in effect: Chicago flights delayed, canceled

December 20, 2012 (CHICAGO)

Southwest Airlines has canceled all its Midway flights after 4:30 p.m. United Airlines and American Airlines are waiving fees for some travelers who want to change their plans.

Due to low visibility in the Chicago area, some airlines are reporting delays of 20 minutes or more for in/outbound flights. Some flights to regional destinations are delayed more than two hours.

ABC7 meteorologist Tracy Butler said snow will start falling near Rockford and DeKalb between noon and 3 p.m. She added Chicago city snow could begin between 5-7 p.m.

The Illinois Tollway says its 182 snowplows are ready to go for the storm. The Tollway has canceled all temporary lane closures between noon today and the morning of December 26.

The city said it is prepared with salt and plows.

The Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation says that it has 285,000 tons of salt on hand. There are 284 snow vehicles, and plows on standby to attack the winter blast.

The department is implementing its real-time Plow Tracker, which allows the public to see snow plow locations throughout the city. Snow plows can be tracked through this link:

Crews will also use 1,500 cameras around the city to monitor traffic conditions as well as sensors on the road.

The Chicago area could see treacherous driving conditions, wind damage, and two to six inches of snow and ice.

"It's not the snow. It is the ice, and it's important to keep in mind that as those temperatures drop and those streets begin to freeze, you're going to have very icy conditions. Our plows are out there primarily taking care of the icy conditions. That's why it's important for people to drive with caution," said Charles Williams, Chicago Dept. of Streets and Sanitation.

Massive waves crashed over the lakefront early Thursday.

Chicago has of 19 salt piles all over the city that haven't gotten much use yet this year.

DuPage County highway authorities have their own fleet of plows ready to go as well. Trucks have been parked for months now during the area's record-breaking snow drought. Ill. Dept. of Transportation officials are reminding drivers of the first snow of the season bringing an adjustment for drivers who have to remember how to drive on these slick roads. for the first snow of the season.

Consider carefully whether you need to go out in the bad conditions. If you do go out, start by buckling up and allow plenty of extra time to get where you're going.

DuPage County and other areas already have a good supply of salt on hand left over from last winter due to the mild season.

In Nebraska and Iowa, the snow has been falling since Wednesday.

Omaha, Nebraska's largest school district, canceled classes because of the heavy overnight snow. People there are warned to stay off the roads as conditions can be dangerous.

Heavy snow fell in Des Moines since Wednesday afternoon, and it should continue to move until noon Thursday. That storm is expected to dump up to a foot of snow by the time that it is all over.

Blizzard conditions are expected in parts of Wisconsin. The governor declared a state of emergency between the National Guard and the state patrol that has been put on alert.

Flights could be affected at Chicago's airports. Some airlines, including United and American, are offering customers a chance to alter travel plans without change fees.

And at least one suburban school district has already announced an early closing. District 129 middle schools in the western suburbs will be dismissing students at 3 p.m. Thursday,

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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