CHICAGO (WLS) -- Two snow storms are expected to hit the Chicago area over the weekend, which will dump a total of 5 to 10 inches of snow in some areas. The CTA plans to pull out special equipment to keep train tracks clear and buses warm.
Snowplow blades were attached to the front of all trains so they can easily remove snow and ice from the tracks. Scrapers and de-icers were also installed on railcars to keep the third rail clear of snow. That rail keeps trains moving. Track switch heaters will also be turned on to keep switches from freezing.
During the winter, many people rely on the CTA. Overhead heaters at all 120 outdoor stations were inspected, tested and turned on. The heat will be available until March 31.
"The only bad days are snow days, where it's more than a couple of inches. Then it's - good luck," said Terry Trampiets, a CTA commuter.
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CTA officials said they plan to monitor the forecast closely to determine how to make their next move. They will try to keep buses and trains on time and on schedule.
The National Weather Service issued a Winter Storm Watch that will be in effect from 6 p. Saturday through 3 a.m. Monday for Cook County and most of the surrounding area. ABC7 Meteorologist Larry Mowry said it may be upgraded to a Winter Storm Warning late Friday night or Saturday morning.
Mowry said the first round of snow is expected to fall between 5 p.m. Saturday and 4 a.m. Sunday. The second round of snow will fall between 1 p.m. Sunday and 3 a.m. Monday, when people will see moderate to heavy snow at times.
Temperatures are expected to rise to the low 30s Sunday evening. People in some areas south of I-80 will see a rain/snow mix at that time. People along or south of the I-80 corridor may see freezing rain. People north of I-80 will continue to see snow with period of freezing drizzle.
The north suburbs are expected to see the most snow, especially near the Wisconsin border. South of the city, snowfall totals will be less.
McHenry County officials are confident they can avoid pileup crashes seen in other states like Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania during their first major snowfalls this year.
"Our Department of Transportation, they're oiling the trucks, greasing them up, shining the plows and the guys are getting some rest right now," said David Christensen, McHenry County Management Director.
SNOW BRINGS DRIVING HAZARDS
Drivers are bracing for the first major snowfall of the season.
"Driving in the snow is not really good for me, so I try not to drive in the snow," said Mona Harrison.
"I feel pretty confident about driving in slippery conditions. I'm always concerned about other drivers who may not be able to handle the situation," Marcus Robinson said.
AAA Chicago dispatchers are ready for a flurry of calls from stranded drivers.
"We are going to see four types of calls: Extractions - pulling people out of ditches who are driving too fast for conditions - lockouts, flat tires and dead batteries," said Beth Mosher, AAA Chicago.
The snowy conditions already led to a 30-car pileup in Michigan that killed three people and a 50-car pileup in on I-90 in Ohio, just east of Cleveland, which injured 14 and shut down the highway for 14 hours.
"Take it slow out there. Almost driving to a crawl situation where you are just going so slow. But really, before you head out evaluate if you really need to take that trip in this weather. Is it worth it?" Mosher said.
Mechanics are working in overdrive at Cassidy Tire & Service on Canal Street. Customers are looking to have their cars winterized, from new batteries to snow tires.
"The difference between all season tires and snow tires is sometimes keeping your car on the road and winding up in a mishap," said Eric Skalka, manager.
WILL WEATHER AFFECT HOLIDAY SHOPPING
Ramesh Mahteni sells scarves and ornaments at the Christkindlmarket every holiday season. Despite this weekend's forecast, he's ready to make some big bucks.
"We are expecting snow this weekend! That's the fun of it. Creates an ambience over here, maybe people will come out more, spend more," Mahteni said.
And while flakes were not filling the sky Friday, shoppers came prepared for arctic temperatures.
On the Mag Mile, festive shoppers on a work trip from Indiana wished it was a little warmer here.
"Sand in my toes would make me shop a heck of a lot more than cold weather!" said Julie Higgins.
But Gentry Quinones said frigid temperatures make her a more efficient gift giver.
"I actually shop more in the cold to be honest. The cold forces me to be in and out, so I'm on a schedule! So I'm up early, out early to be in the house early," Quinones said.
The president of the Mag Mile said the coming snow equals sales.
"We are gonna sell coats, boots gloves, hats, you name it!" John Chikow said.
And it's not just stores bringing in the bucks. Salvation Army bell ringer Brenda said when the weather gets bad, shoppers are more willing to give.
"When it's snowing people are more generous," she said.