Weather Updates

System from north brings ‘potent’ storm; hundreds of flights canceled

A motorist bicyclist maneuver past puddle N. Kedzie Ave. Logan Square Friday Feb. 24 2012 Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

A motorist and bicyclist maneuver past a puddle on N. Kedzie Ave. in Logan Square Friday, Feb. 24, 2012, in Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: February 24, 2012 3:24PM

Blame Canada. A pressure system from Saskatchewan ushered in a “potent” winter storm, socking the Chicago area with thick, wet snow that has closed schools, and disrupted traffic and air travel.

As of about 10 a.m., the storm had dropped as much as 8 inches of snow in some northwest suburbs and as little as a trace in the far south suburbs and northwest Indiana, according to the National Weather Service.

While the snow system is on its way out, it may still kick some precipitation back our way. An additional 1 to 2 inches of snow could fall across far northeast Illinois -- including Chicago -- and northwest Indiana throough noon.

The highest snow totals were in northern Cook County, as well as DeKalb, Kane and DuPage counties, with only a few inches of accumulation south of I-80 and into northwest Indiana.

At O’Hare International Airport, 2.6 inches of snow had fallen over the past 24 hours, the weather service reported.

As of about 10 a.m., the weather service had received snowfall reports which included the following:

— Grayslake, 7.5 inches;

— Cary, 8.5 inches;

— Mundelein, 8.2 inches;

— Elgin, 5.1 inches;

— Elk Grove Village, between 3.0 and 3.6 inches;

— Lincolnwood, 2.3 inches;

— Oak Park, 1.5 inches;

— Aurora, 1 inch.

In the far south suburbs and northwest Indiana, snowfall totals so far have ranged between a trace and slightly less than an inch.

A winter weather advisory previously set to expire at 9 a.m. will last until noon for Lake, Dupage, Cook and Will counties in Illinois; and Lake and Porter counties in Indiana, the weather service said. A similar advisory for McHenry, Kane and Kendall counties expired at 9 a.m.

Dozens of suburban schools, mostly in the northern and northwestern suburbs, are closed or started late because of the winter weather.

Air travel in and around Chicago has been disrupted. As of 10:30 a.m., flights in and out of O’Hare International Airport were delayed an average of 45 minutes and more than 200 flights had been canceled, according to the city Department of Aviation. At Midway Airport, delays were averaging about 45 minutes as of 10:30 a.m. and about 40 Friday flights had been canceled.

Area motorists also faced difficult morning commutes. The wind-whipped slushy snow accumulated quickly in some areas, according to the National Weather Service. making for poor driving conditions. Strong winds also blew the wet snow up onto cars, reducing visibility for drivers.

The city’s Department of Streets and Sanitation had 250 plows on the main routes and Lake Shore Drive on Friday morning, and planned to focus on residential streets after high-traffic areas were cleared, a release early Friday said.

The Illinois Tollway used its full fleet of 183 snowplows in response to the snowfall, and the Tollway’s Snow Operations Center is open to manage the agency’s system-wide response.

ComEd has readied more than 1,100 storm response crews in case the dense, wet snow brings down power lines, a release said. The utility activated its Emergency Operations Center Thursday afternoon and deployed 40 contractors. It plans to bring in additional crews from out of state Friday morning, the release said.

The utility also beefed up staffing at its call center to handle customers reporting outages, according to the release. Customers can also report outages and receive restoration updates via text message by sending the word “OUT” to 26633 (ComEd).

People with health concerns should be especially cautious shoveling because the snow’s high moisture content could make it heavier and more difficult to move, the weather service said.

Temperatures should stay in the lower to mid 30s Friday and Saturday, according to the weather service, and are expected to climb into the mid-40s by Sunday.

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