Chicago Weather: Snow falls, deep freeze sets in

January 21, 2014 (CHICAGO)

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Parts of the Chicago area and Northwest Indiana were buried under nearly two feet of lake-effect snow on Tuesday.

It's made for an entire day and night of dangerous driving along Interstate 80-94. It's getting better, but still slick in some spots. They had to bring in plows from other areas to help clear the snow.

On Tuesday night, there was still very heavy traffic in the westbound lanes of I-80/94, in part because of the numerous spinouts and crashes this evening. With this type of traffic, snow plows can't do their work.

Because of these road conditions, the schools in Gary had to dismiss early on Tuesday and will remain closed on Wednesday. And the Gary City Council also had to cancel its meeting Tuesday night.

Due to winter weather conditions, airlines at O'Hare report delays up to 30 minutes and have canceled more than 230 flights. Airlines at Midway report approximately two dozen delays of 40 minutes, mainly due to East coast weather, and have canceled more than 35 flights.

The National Weather Service the Chicago west suburb of Oak Park logged more than 8 inches of snow. And there's a 50-percent chance of more snow in that region Wednesday, when high temperatures are expected to push into the teens.

The weather service in central Illinois' Lincoln says that swath of the state got 1 to 4 inches of snowfall, with much of that accumulation drifting across roadways before being compacted by vehicles, making driving conditions slick.

In northwest Indiana, the snow started coming down at about 6 a.m. and continued at least 6 hours. The snow band is lake effect and with the wind chill well below zero, not only is it cold but windy, making visibility poor. Drivers got stuck in snow banks.

"I had an idea it was coming, but I didn't think it was gonna be this much, and just looking out the window it was a complete whiteout," said Alex Ross. Big rigs especially had a hard time navigating the roads in the snow. Whiteout conditions on I-80/94 caused several spinouts, including a semi that lost traction on an entrance ramp. Kenneth Smith spent nearly 90 minutes helping guide the driver out of a tough spot.

"This reminds me of the early '80s. It's kind of fun and kind of cold, not fun for him, but we'll get him out," Smith said.

Not only did the onslaught of snow make the roads treacherous, it dumped 20 inches of snow on Griffith. The town is taking it in stride, using its limited resources to the best of its ability.

In Illinois, a lot of homeowners in the south suburbs dragged out their shovels and snow blowers for another round of snow. According to the National Weather Service, 3.5 inches fell overnight in south suburban Oak Lawn. People shoveling say the snow is light and easy to clear, but they're ready for this winter to be over.

"I shoveled snow once last year, once last year, and I spent 12 years in San Diego, so to come back here again, this has been pretty brutal," said Ray Ryan.

Temperatures on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday will be near zero and wind chills as cold as minus 20 to 25 degrees are forecast, meteorologists said.

This particular blast of cold air is not the polar vortex itself, but rather a byproduct of the system that regularly moves through Canada and into the United States, meteorologists said.

By Friday, highs in the area are expected to climb to 24 degrees, falling to 15 at night, forecasts show.

(The Sun-Times Media Wire and Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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