A flight information screen displays canceled flights at Midway airport in Chicago, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012. The first widespread snowstorm of the season crawled across the Midwest on Thursday, with whiteout conditions stranding holiday travelers. The storm led airlines to cancel about 1,000 flights ahead of the Christmas holiday relatively few compared to past big storms, though the number was climbing. Southwest Airlines scratched all of its flights scheduled after 4:30 p.m. today at Midway. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
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Updated: December 21, 2012 2:36AM
The winter storm warning was still in effect early Friday morning, but forecasters said the city and most of the suburbs would see less an inch of snow, according to the National Weather Service.
Temperatures stayed just above freezing in the Chicago area, so the snow didn’t accumulate, said Gino Izzi, a meteorologist with the weather service in Romeoville.
“We don’t think there will be any significant accumulation,” Izzi said. The winter storm warning was to expire at 3 a.m. Friday.
Before it even arrived, the storm had caused hundreds of flight cancellations and a warning of near-blizzard conditions during the rush-hour drive. Ultimately, though, flakes didn’t start falling until later in the evening.
Despite the lack of accumulation, wind gusts of over 40 mph downed power lines and caused outages throughout Illinois.
More than 30,000 people were without power in northern Illinois as of 8 p.m. Thursday, according to Arlana Johnson, a spokeswoman for ComEd.
The western suburbs were the hardest hit, with more than 27,000 people without power, Johnson said.
“Winds are dramatically intensifying with the cold air surging,” said Ed Fenelon, a meteorologist with the weather service in Romeoville.
Wind gusts up to 50 mph could cause blowing and drifting snow throughout the night.
“Anything that’s not secured and is loose could go. There could even be some minor structural damage,” Fenelon said.
The Illinois Tollway said it mobilized its full fleet of 182 snow plows in preparation for the storm. It also canceled all temporary lane closures through Dec. 26 to help with snow removal.
In the air, low visibility caused airlines to cancel more than 350 flights at O’Hare Airport, according to the city’s Department of Aviation. Delays have been averaging between 30 and 40 minutes for both inbound and outbound flights as of 8:30 p.m.
At Midway Airport, airlines forced more than 150 flights and Southwest Airlines canceled all of its Midway flights after 4:30 p.m. The airport was reporting delays Thursday night, according to the Department of Aviation.
Passengers planning to travel on Friday, and those picking up passengers, should check their airline’s website for flight status.
Temperatures were expected to remain in the 20s Friday and drop into the mid-teens Friday night.
“We have not had any cold weather to speak of this fall or early winter. Tomorrow will be the first day in Chicago that we are not going to reach freezing as a high temperature,” Fenelon said.