Chicago weather: Winter Storm Warning in effect; deep freeze, high winds follow snow

High winds and frigid temperatures are biggest risks on Friday

ByABC7 Eyewitness News Team Coverage WLS logo
Friday, December 23, 2022
The snow is over, but now come the high wnds and frigid temperatures that will make it dangerous to be outside for the next couple days.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A much-anticipated winter storm arrived in the Chicago area Thursday morning, bringing less snow than originally feared, but plenty of high wind and dangerously cold temperatures.

The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Warning for the entire Chicago area and northwest Indiana.

School Closings: See Full List

The warning is in effect now until Saturday at 6 a.m. for Illinois counties in the Chicago area. The warning starts at 3 p.m. for areas in northwest Indiana, also until 6 a.m. Saturday.

WATCH: Live winter storm tracker

Porter County, Indiana has a Blizzard Warning in effect from 3 p.m. Thursday to 6 a.m. Saturday. Gov. Eric Holcomb has activated nearly 150 members of the National Guard to help stranded drivers as officials in Indiana and Illinois plead with people to stay off the roads.

Snow began to fall in the western suburbs Thursday morning, and spread into the city before moving into Northwest Indiana around 3 p.m. It tapered off in the evening hours, leaving behind one to four inches in most areas, far below the models earlier in the week that forecast a foot or more in some places.

LIVE: Watch the winter storm around the Chicago area

In its wake, the storm brought a front of extreme cold, with temperatures plummeting below zero ad wind gusts up to 50 miles per hour making it feel far, far colder.

Latest 7-day Chicago weather forecast

Blowing snow will continue and temperatures will dip below zero with wind chills -30 to -40 degrees Friday. The combination means icy conditions on roads and sidewalks are likely, and frostbite could set in within 10 minutes.

In Hyde Park, Quentin Kimbrough wore multiple layers included heated thermals as he worked outside to clear the snow.

"If you any skin that is visible to the air, it's going to get frostbite pretty fast. If you're not layered you're going to feel every bit of this wind," he said. "I would say not go out. I would describe this as too windy to be in the city."

Wind chills of -20 to -30 degrees mean frostbite can set in in a matter of minutes, and hospitals in Chicago area bracing for an influx of patients from the cold.

AAA said if you plan to drive or the holidays either Thursday and Friday, you should seriously reconsider just staying home. The organization said 5.2 million people were supposed to drive for the holidays this year, but the storm may mean numbers are decreasing fast.

Millions of people planned t hit the roads for the holidays Thursday and Friday but conditions will become increasingly dangrous with blowing snow and ice.

"If there is a blizzard in the way, the best thing to do is stay home and stay safe," said Molly Hart of AAA.

"It's been interesting and quite scary at times. There was one spot that was definitely very slick and you could tell it was going to get dangerous. We saw some trucks that had already slipped onto the side," said Mary Botros, driving to Chicago from Ohio.

Many drivers coming into town paused for much needed relief just south of the city.

"Honestly it's just been keeping on the road in an area where you can tell where the lane is. The visibility has been pretty bad," Botros said.

Light load tractor trailer drivers are having a particularly difficult time with the high winds across open interstates, which push their vehicles around.

Hart said it is essential to have an emergency kit with a cell phone, charger, jumper cables, extra bottles of water, snacks and blankets if venturing on the roads in this weather.

"Some people think, 'I don't need it.' With this weather, you need to put it together and get it in your car," she said. She also recommends having your car professionally checked. "You want to have your battery strength tested, you also want to make sure your windshield wipers are working properly. You want to make sure your tires are properly inflated."

Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation prepares for winter storm

Chicago DSS Commissioner Cole Stallard discusses the city's preparations for a winter sorm Thursday.

In Chicago, Department of Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Cole Stallard said they had 287 snow vehicles ready to go Thursday morning.

"Stay off the roads if you can. Make sure you have enough fuel in your car," Stallard said. "Make sure you have enough wiper fluid and you can be looking at a clean street right in front of you and you can go up two blocks and it's going to be blizzard-like conditions."

Meanwhile, Cook County said it's prepared for the snow.

Sixty snow plows are on hand to both salt and clear the roads. Cook County is also deploying about 65 drivers, and 16,000 tons of salt is available.

Metra will run a more limited schedule due to the weather, but will have extra staffing on-hand to battle the elements.

CTA said it will run trains and buses as normal on Thursday and Friday, but warned there could be delays due to the weather. Anyone who may be waiting outside for a bus is advised to bundle up.

Chicago Public Schools are open Thursday, but after-school activities are canceled. Friday was already a scheduled day off.

Click here to see a full list of school closures

ComEd prepares for power outages

With wind gusts up to 50 mph and temperatures well below zero, power outages from this winter storm could be deadly, so ComEd workers are ready to respond.

ComEd said it is prepared and in position to assist people quickly in the event of power outages.

"We are positioning our people and equipment to respond quickly and safely to any interruptions that result from this snowstorm," said Terence Donnelly, president and COO of ComEd. "We realize that any interruption is an inconvenience to our customers, especially during the holidays. Avoiding power outages and restoring service quickly is critical. We have strengthened our system over the years to reduce the impacts a storm like this can have on our customers."

They said they will have more than 1,800 utility workers on the system including 350 line workers from around the country to respond to any potential outages.

ComEd customers can text OUT to 26633 (COMED) to report an outage and receive restoration information as well as following ComEd on Twitter or on Facebook. Customers can also call 1-800 EDISON1 (1-800-334-7661), or report outages via the website at or use the ComEd app.

Chino Watts has been a line worker for ComEd for 39 years. He's dressed in several layers including protective gear, ready to work 16-hour shifts in the winter storm.

"I will be actually the person who will be working on the lines," he said. "Once you see this truck, right here pull up, you know Chino is in town."

Workers went over safety plans at the utility company's Chicago North Regional Office.

"There's never a good time to lose power but especially during the holidays and when we expect to have minus degree temperatures," ComEd CEO Gil Quiniones said. "We understand that we need to restore power as quickly and as safely as possible."

Quiniones visited with workers Thursday morning as they loaded up trucks.

The wind and the extreme cold is the biggest concern. Workers may have to pause if conditions get too dangerous.

"About 30-40 mile an hour we would have to take a time out and wait for the wind to lower a bit before we can safely restore power," Quiniones said.

ComEd said they don't want anyone to spend Christmas in the dark or the cold.

Watts said he's one of a team of employees trying to make sure of it.

"Our job is to make sure the lights stay on," Watts said. "If they do go out, we'll be the first responders."

ComEd warns people never to approach a downed power line and not to approach ComEd crews to ask them about restoration times as they may be working on live electrical equipment.

Hundreds of flights canceled:

Hundreds of flights have been canceled at O'Hare and Midway airports Thursday..

As of noon, 507 flights had been canceled at O'Hare Airport, with 245 flight cancellations at Midway Airport

What can I do if my flight is canceled, delayed? How to prepare for likely 2022 holiday travel mess

Blizzard conditions are expected from the plains and the Midwest to the east coast, with high winds and plunging temperatures.

The delays and cancellations are only adding to the chaos at airports packed with holiday travelers.

The roads will also be busy, as many families travel by car for the holidays.

What are criteria for a blizzard?

In order for a blizzard warning to be issued, the following conditions need to prevail for three hours or longer:

-The storm needs to have sustained wind or frequent gusts to 35 miles-per-hour or greater

-Falling and/or blowing snow reducing visibility to less than a quarter mile

Stay tuned to ABC7 Eyewitness News and for the latest forecast and snowfall amounts as the winter storm approaches.

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