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O’Hare, Midway brace for holiday travelers, freezing rain on Friday

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Updated: January 21, 2014 11:24AM



O’Hare International and Midway Airports are expecting their busiest travel day of the Christmas and New Year’s holiday season on Friday, just as the city is due to be hit with freezing rain.

A freezing rain advisory was issued early Friday and extended to 3 p.m. for counties north and west of Chicago, including ice coverings up to one-tenth of an inch thick in parts of Lake, DuPage, McHenry and Kane, according to the National Weather Service.

Those freezing conditions are expected to move into the city by the afternoon, meteorologists said, leaving roadways and sidewalks slick and possibly wreaking havoc on the afternoon commute.

Highs Friday will reach the low-to-mid-30s with a 50 percent chance of light rain, before dropping to a low in the mid-20s, the weather service said.

O’Hare was bracing for 209,000 passengers to wind through its terminals on Friday, and Midway is expecting 66,000, city aviation officials said.

At Midway, travelers will contribute to the biggest passenger tally in the airport’s 86-year history for the Christmas-New Year’s travel period, Chicago Department of Aviation spokesman Gregg Cunningham said.

Midway expects an 8 percent uptick in passenger volume compared with last year’s holiday travel season, with more than 1 million travelers due from Friday through Jan. 6.

O’Hare predicts a 2 percent increase over the same season last year, with nearly 2.7 million passengers expected through Jan. 6, Cunningham said.

If freezing rain causes any delays Friday, travelers will have plenty to entertain them at both airports.

Choirs, carolers, blues and jazz musicians will provide entertainment at both airports through Dec. 24. Santa will make periodic visits through Christmas Eve.

Last-minute shoppers might score a find at the “Holiday Delight Fashion Market,” which will feature goods from local fashion designers and independent retailers from noon to 5 p.m. Friday at O’Hare.

Officials advise passengers not to bring wrapped gifts through security checkpoints because they may need to be unwrapped for inspection by security officers. Both airports will feature complimentary gift-wrapping in terminals past security on Friday, Monday and Tuesday.

Drivers can use free cellphone waiting lots at O’Hare and Midway to temporarily park as they await calls from friends and relatives on arriving flights. The O’Hare cellphone waiting lot is at Economy Park Lot F at Mannheim and Zemke Roads. The Midway lot is at 61st Street and Cicero Avenue, just south of the main airport entrance.

A complicated winter storm Saturday will usher rain, sleet, snow or all of the above into the area after midnight. The storm’s course remains uncertain, but several inches of snow could possibly fall in the far northern suburbs, the weather service said.

Saturday carries a 100 percent chance of precipitation, and the snow will continue through Sunday, the weather service said. The city and southern suburbs could also see lesser amounts of snow.

For more information, go to www.FlyChicago.com.

Email: rrossi@suntimes.com

Twitter: @rosalindrossi



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