Weather Updates

Chicago area under ice watch Sunday afternoon, evening

Updated: February 28, 2013 7:09AM

Chicago sent its full fleet of 284 snow plows onto Chicago’s main routes and Lake Shore Drive to salt the roads as freezing rain began to descend on the metropolitan area this afternoon.

Snow will quickly change to sleet and freezing rain, said National Weather Service meteorologist Kevin Birk.

Ice accumulations of up to a couple tenths of an inch are expected before temperatures rise above freezing.

The bad weather began to reach the western suburbs early this afternoon, and the system travels west to east.

“If you have to travel, be very cautious,” Birk said, even when it comes to walking outside or driving because untreated services will be slippery. Sideways and sidewalks could turn to sheets of ice making walking difficult and potentially dangerous, the Weather Service noted.

The freeing rain is expected to turn to all rain in the early evening hours into the night.

The Illinois Department of Transportation said it has its full complement of 360 trucks at the ready. Half were uploaded with salt as early as Friday, said spokesman Mike Claffey.

“We’ll be out there hitting the roads hard,” he said. “The good news is it’s a Sunday, so there’s a lot less traffic out there.”

Another plus — warm weather is on the way. The forecast for Monday is a high of 47 degrees and for Sunday night is 34.

“We don’t expect it to stick around and start problems into Monday,” Claffey said of the freezing rain. “We do see a warming trend overnight that will certainly help. It would be worse if we had an ice storm followed by deep freeze.”

For those who must drive today, he advised , “you really absolutely must slow down and allow more braking distance.”

The ice isn’t expected to create widespread damage of trees and power lines, although there could be some isolated incidents, Birk said.

ComEd has been monitoring the situation and said the weather event could have some impact on its equipment.

“We’ve increased staffing at our operations center ... for dispatching crews and beefed up the number of crews we will have available today to assist with any restoration as needed,” said ComEd spokeswoman Arlana Johnson.

A freezing rain advisory is in effect until 9 p.m.

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