Chicago Weather: Blowing snow slows evening commute, cancels flights at O'Hare, Midway

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Snow and high winds across the Chicago area snarled traffic and caused major flight delays on Thursday. The National Weather Service extended a Winter Weather Advisory for the Chicago area until 3 a.m. Friday.

As of 8:30 p.m., the winter weather is causing delays and cancellations at the city's airports. At O'Hare, delays are averaging 2 hours and more than 465 flights have been canceled. At Midway, delays are averaging 2 hours or more. More than 110 flights have been canceled.

Blowing snow caused whiteout conditions in some areas and brought traffic to a slow crawl during the commute home and throughout much of the night.

And while dozens of schools will be closed for a third day in a row on Friday, Chicago Public Schools and U-46 in Elgin will be open.


The city Department of Streets and Sanitation deployed its full snow fleet of more than 280 vehicles just before 2 p.m. The plows will begin salting and plowing main routes and Lake Shore Drive before heading to neighborhood and side streets. The Illinois Tollway also deployed its full fleet of 185 snowplows during the evening rush hour.

IDOT was out, but lanes of the outbound Dan Ryan were indiscernible on Thursday night. Similar conditions were seen on other expressways, including 80/94, where high winds wreaked havoc.

"The wind keeps blowing the snow back on the freeway, and they're trying to keep up with it. It's really hard," said Gary Davison, a truck driver.

Jaime McCord's SUV was a casualty of the evening commute. She hit a patch of black ice that sent her into a guardrail.

"I wasn't even doing anything, not changing lanes or nothing. I hit the patch of ice, it sent me into a spin," McCord said. "If you can, stay in. Don't go out. It's not worth it, not worth it at all."

TRAFFIC: Interactive Chicago Traffic Map

Meanwhile, temperatures hover around the coldest of the season. With wind chills of 10 to 15 below zero, Thursday's high will reach only the teens. Friday's high temperature will occur in the very early morning and continue to fall during the day. ABC7 Meteorologist Tracy Butler predicts a high of 2 degrees for Friday afternoon.

Thursday marked the third consecutive day of dangerously cold temperatures. People are encouraged to stay indoors if possible, and bring pets inside as well. Those who have to be out should dress in layers and cover as much skin as possible. Officials warn frostbite can occur in just minutes during these conditions.

Warming centers will be open around the city for those in need, including six operated by the Department of Family and Support Services. DFSS warming centers will be open for extended hours, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Friday. Their 10 South Kedzie location is open 24/7 to connect homeless families and individuals to shelter. Libraries and senior centers also serve as warming centers for anyone in need. For more information on warming centers, click here. Any residents who need a ride to a warming center or shelter, or to arrange a well-being check, can call 311. Some suburbs also offer warming centers. In Naperville, all of them are open.


Chicago Public Schools were closed on Thursday, but will reopen on Friday. CPS parents can check out the CPS website or call (773) 553-1000 for information.

Hundreds of schools in the city and the suburbs canceled classes Thursday for the second day in a row, while others are open.

All YMCA centers in the Chicago metro are offering "School Days Out" programs, For $40, parents could drop kids off from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday.

Six nature centers within the Cook County Forest Preserves are also open. Admission at the Shedd Aquarium is free on Thursday for Illinois residents. The Museum of Science and Industry is also open for free on Thursday if you live in Illinois. That free offer is available every weekday in January.

Waukegan, Barrington and Plainfield schools are also closed Thursday.

However, Zion-Benton Township High School is open. District 126 Superintendent Chris Clark said lower-income students rely on schools for safety and hot meals while parents work.

For a full list of school closings in the Chicago area, visit ABC7's School Closings page.


Chicago drivers are doing everything they can to keep their cars problem-free in the extreme cold. At this time of year, it's a good idea to keep a substantial amount of gas in the tank. AAA was busy answering calls for help on the roads Thursday.

"Through yesterday, our calls are up over 103 percent over the same time period last month. It'll be very busy today and throughout this week," said Beth Mosher, AAA.

The Illinois Tollway system has implemented it's "Zero Weather Road Patrol," a program of additional roadside help for motorists.

"Earlier today we had a couple people run out of gas, one with a flat tire. We get me out of there so they do t have to be on the side of the road and freeze," said John Wagner, Illinois Tollway.

Experts warn drivers not to jump cars if the battery is frozen because it could explode. Motorists should bring the vehicle straight to a professional.


A city ordinance requires landlords to maintain certain heat levels in rental units between Sept. 15 and June 1. Temperatures should be at least 68 degrees during the day and 66 degrees at night. If a landlord does not comply, call the city at 311.

Fluctuations in the temperature can put stress on old, cast-iron pipes. To prevent residents pipes from freezing, the city said to try running a trickle of water while temperatures are so low. Wrapping blankets around exposed pipes and allowing warmer air to circulate near them are also good tips. If a pipe does freeze, never use an open flame to thaw it. Use a heating pad or hair dryer instead. If residents lose water service or see a leak from a broken main or service pipe, the city said to call 311.

A water main broke in the 8700-block of South Union in Chicago's Auburn Gresham neighborhood around 9:40 p.m. Wednesday because of the bone-chilling temperatures. City crews were able to repair a leak in a valve basin early Thursday morning, police said.
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