Winter storm hitting northern Illinois

Region could receive more than 8 inches of snow, according to the National Weather Service

A student leave one of the campus buildings at University of St. Francis as afternoon rain turns to evening snow on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024 in Joliet.

A winter storm was hitting northern Illinois on Friday, as the National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for the entire region predicting powerful wind gusts and up to a foot of snow in some places.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning through noon on Saturday. The watch applied to McHenry, Lake, Cook, Bureau, Kane, DuPage, Kendall, DeKalb, Ogle, Lee, La Salle, Will, Whiteside and Grundy counties.

“This, obviously, is going to be heavy snow. Roads are going to be bad. Traffic is going to be hazardous and difficult at times,” said Mark Ratzer, meteorologist with the National Weather Service Chicago/Romeoville office. “If people don’t have to be out, if they can work from home or postpone other activities, it’s probably a good time to do that. These are some of the strongest types of storms we have in winter in this part of the world. People should take it seriously and hunker down and try not to be out in it because that’s when bad things can happen.”

Motorists throughout northern Illinois were experiencing snow covered roads due to blowing snow on Friday morning, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation.

McHenry, Ogle, Lee, DeKalb, Kane and DuPage counties were forecast to receive snow accumulation of more than 8 inches and wind gusts up to 45 mph that will make travel difficult to impossible with limited visibility. Snow rates may exceed 1 inch per hour at times.

Meanwhile, La Salle, Kendall, Grundy, Cook, and Will counties were expected to receive snow accumulation of more than 6 inches with similar wind gusts and similar travel difficulties. The snow in these areas will mix with and potentially change to entirely rain mid-moring to mid-afternoon Friday before changing back to snow, and snow could fall faster than 1 inch per hour at times.

Whiteside and Bureau counties can expect between 5 to 10 inches of snow, with ice accumulations of around one-tenth of an inch. The NWS said snow will spread across this area from south to north, and some areas south of Interstate 80 could see freezing rain and rain mixed with snow at times. Colder air will move into the area later in the day Friday along with strong winds, potentially creating near-blizzard conditions.

Commuters should expect another hazardous morning drive on Friday to kick off the second snowstorm of the week, Ratzer said.

Snow was expected to fall through Saturday morning.

At least 8 inches of snow was predicted for areas north of Interstate 80 and west of Interstate 294. And, “in the neighborhood of a foot when you get out into McHenry County, northern DeKalb County, Rockford, Dixon. A foot of snow,” Ratzer said.

Those closer to the Chicago area into Joliet might see a brief mix of rain mixed with snow later Friday morning Friday, but most of it will be snow for the majority of the day.

Friday evening’s commute could be worse, Ratzer said, since wind is expected to pick up. While snowfall will be heavy, it isn’t likely to be as wet as Tuesday’s, so blowing conditions could make driving hazardous. Some areas could see 1 mile or less of visibility at times Friday night, Ratzer said.

“It’s going to be slippery,” Ratzer said. “So that’s also an issue. People are just going to have to slow down, leave a lot of following space, which doesn’t always happen. It will be pretty hazardous there for a while from what we expect. It’s not going to be a good commute.”

The majority of the storm will wind down Friday night into Saturday, though snowfall is expected to continue into Saturday morning. The winter storm warning runs through noon Saturday.

The NWS is forecasting a flash freeze after the storm, starting Sunday morning that could see temperatures drop into the single digits or colder, with lows expected to be below zero. Wind chills could cause be as low as minus-30 degrees in the morning, and ice jams may develop on rivers.

Temperatures will settle just around the freezing line Thursday night into Friday and remain there for much of the day. Those numbers are expected to plummet on the weekend though, Ratzer said. Saturday morning will see temperatures in the 20s and fall from there, dropping to the teens Saturday afternoon and single digits Saturday night. Wind chills will be frigid, Ratzer said.

Sunday night temperatures are forecasted to be 10 or 15 degrees below zero with wind chills falling to 20 or 25 below zero. That cold snap will likely last through Tuesday, leaving northern Illinois in a chilly haze.

“A real arctic blast,” Ratzer said. “Kind of a one-two punch with the snow. We’re really going for a turn from what we’ve had.”

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With winter weather in full swing, here are some winter storm safety tips from the Federal Emergency Management Agency:

  • Stay off roads if at all possible.
  • If trapped in your car, stay inside.
  • Limit your time outside.
  • If you need to go outside, wear layers of warm clothing.
  • Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
  • Reduce the risk of a heart attack. Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow.
  • Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia, and begin treatment right away.
  • Check on neighbors. Older adults and young children are more at risk in extreme cold.

Also, heavy snow combined with strong winds can cause tree branches to fall, leading to power outages, according to the NWS.

Here are some tips from Accuweather on how to stay safe during a power outage:

  • If the power goes out in a winter weather event, temperatures can drop significantly. Make sure to keep all doors to the outside shut. Use towels to block drafts coming in from window and door cracks.
  • It’s also possible to insulate windows with black blankets. The black draws heat from the sun. If the sun’s rays are coming through the window, put the blankets on the floor where the sun is directly shining instead.
  • Running a bathtub of hot water also draws heat into the house.
  • Turning faucets to a trickle helps prevent pipes from freezing. If needed, wrap pipes in insulation or newspaper. Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing.
  • Don’t rely on gas stoves, charcoal grills or other open-flame heat sources. Deadly carbon monoxide gas, which is odorless and invisible, may build up in your home.
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning, fire and electric shock are hazards during an outage. Place generators away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.
  • If you live in an area prone to blizzards, install carbon monoxide alarms. It’s best to put one on every floor in central locations. If the alarm sounds, move quickly to fresh air either outdoors or by an open window. Call for help and remain there until emergency personnel arrive.
  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed. These appliances are well insulated, so food will keep for hours if opening the door is kept to a minimum. In the winter, a ready supply of snow or ice from outside can be placed in a plastic bag and put into the fridge or freezer to keep food cold.

For the latest Illinois road conditions, go to Getting Around Illinois.

Michael Urbanec

Michael Urbanec

Michael Urbanec covers Grundy County and the City of Morris, Coal City, Minooka, and more for the Morris Herald-News

Kelsey Rettke

Kelsey Rettke

Kelsey Rettke is the editor of the Daily Chronicle, part of Shaw Media and DeKalb County's only daily newspaper devoted to local news, crime and courts, government, business, sports and community coverage. Kelsey also covers breaking news for Shaw Media Local News Network.