Weather Updates

Weather grounds 450 flights; 6-plus inches of snow on way

An aerial view shows downtown Chicago surrounded by snow icy Lake Michigan Thursday Jan. 30 2014. Though temperatures are expected

An aerial view shows downtown Chicago surrounded by snow and icy Lake Michigan Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014. Though temperatures are expected to reach the low-30s Thursday, gusty winds will spread across the area with snow showers. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

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Updated: January 31, 2014 12:33AM

More than 450 flights were canceled at the city’s two airports Thursday, as snow and strong winds topping 45 mph moved into town ahead of a weekend snowstorm that could dump six inches or more.

As of 3:30 p.m., airlines at O’Hare Airport had canceled 300 flights Thursday, while 150 flights were canceled at Midway, the city’s Department of Aviation said. Travelers at both airports are delayed an hour on average because of weather conditions.

While the falling snow tapered off Thursday night, there’s more bad news: A snowstorm Friday evening into Saturday morning could bring more than 6 inches of snow, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Kevin Birk.

Snow and strong winds topping 45 mph moved into town Thursday and made this January the third-snowiest month ever recorded in Chicago.

Snowfall at O’Hare Airport was measured at four-tenths of an inch Thursday, bringing this month’s total to 33.5 inches so far, according to the National Weather Service. That makes it the third-snowiest month ever recorded here since officials started keeping track in 1884.

January 1918 still holds the top spot with 42.5 inches of snow, while January 1979 comes in second place with 40.4 inches, the weather service said. Thursday’s snowfall pushed this month’s record just slightly above December 1951, which saw 33.3 inches.

The storm on Friday will arrive from the southwest, which produces a wetter type of snow, Birk said. That translates into slippery driving conditions, especially with snow expected to fall at about an inch an hour Saturday — maybe more.

“Due to the heavy nature of snow you’re going to see snow rapidly accumulate on road ways,” he said. “On Saturday morning we’ll be getting an inch or more an hour — that is going to make roadways slippery quickly … Visibility will be half-a-mile or less.”

Illinois State Police are already cautioning drivers in Will and Kendall counties that whiteout conditions are possible the next few days. Drivers should leave extra travel time and carry emergency supplies in their vehicles.

There is some good news, though.

“Temperatures will be fairly mild through the snowstorm,” Birk said. “But with the snow, we might not enjoy them. It won’t be anything like we experienced earlier this month.”

Birk said Friday and Saturday’s highs should be around the low to mid-20s and should drop into the mid-teens later in the evening. He added winds will be around the “10 to 20 mph range.”

“All and all, it won’t be a good time to travel,” he said.

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