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Winter storm headed our way; too soon to predict white Christmas: forecasters

Updated: January 20, 2014 8:21AM



A winter storm now swirling over the Pacific Ocean will take aim at the Chicago area this weekend, just as the the holiday travel season kicks in.

The storm will charge over the Great Plains and arrive in our area sometime Saturday night or Sunday morning, said Meteorologist Gino Izzi with the National Weather Service in Romeoville.

“The possibilities of what we’re going to get run the gamut, but it’s looking like the potential is there for rain, sleet, snow and possibly heavy amounts of precipitation,” Izzi said.

Though it is not yet clear exactly where the storm will hit, and how much precipitation it may bring, forecasters say it is looking increasingly likely that the heaviest snow will fall well northwest of Chicago.

Meanwhile, areas to the south and southeast toward Indiana could see significant rainfall or even some flooding as rain combines with melting snow, the weather service said.

“It’s still early and things could change so we’ll be watching this very carefully over the next couple of days,” Izzi said.

Officials at the AAA travel club do not expect the weekend storm to impact the number of people traveling for the holidays throughout the Chicago area, spokeswoman Beth Mosher said.

Roughly 4.9 million people in Illinois will travel 50 miles or more from home between Saturday and New Year’s Day, a slight uptick from the 2012 travel season, AAA Chicago estimates.

Most — about 4.4 million — will hit the roads, while another 263,000 people plan to head for the airports, AAA said. Nationwide, more than 94.5 million people will travel during the season, making 2013 the fifth year in a row to see increases in holiday travel volume.

Forecasters say the metro area could see some light rain Thursday, with a high of 40 degrees. Friday will be colder, with highs in the mid-30s and possibly some light, freezing drizzle, according to the weather service.

The beginning of Christmas week looks to be a chilly one, as a blast of cold air drops highs to the high teens or lower 20s by Monday, the weather service said.

Temperatures will warm slightly by the holiday, but it is still to soon say if we will see a white Christmas, Izzi said.

Email: lshelton@suntimes.com

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