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What You Need To Know About The Winter Storm That’s About To Hit Chicago

High winds, snow, icy roads and a fast drop in temperatures will create extremely hazardous conditions for travel — especially on Friday, experts say.

Manuel Mola plows the snow in Irving Park as snow continues to fall across Chicago during Winter Storm Landon on Feb. 2, 2022.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Temperatures could plummet 25 degrees in just a matter of hours Thursday in Chicago as a winter storm takes hold of the city.

Experts have warned Chicagoans a potential blizzard could hit Thursday night into Friday morning, creating dangerously cold, windy and snowy weather that will upend people’s holiday travel plans. The city’s under a hazardous weather outlook and a winter storm watch from the National Weather Service during that time.

Chicago officials are expected to announce at an 11 a.m. Wednesday news conference how they’ll prepare for and combat the storm. But meteorologists have urged people to change their travel plans and stay inside if possible.

The snow is expected to start during the day Thursday and get heavier in the afternoon, said Kevin Doom, a National Weather Service meteorologist. Lighter snow could continue into the night, with more light snow possible Friday.

Doom said the National Weather Service is predicting 2-5 inches of snow falling on Chicago during that time. Rick DiMaio, an adjunct professor of aviation meteorology at Lewis University and professor of climate change at Loyola University, said in an email Tuesday night he expects 6-8 inches of snow in the city.

But the experts’ main concern is the wind and extreme cold, which will kick off Thursday and stick around throughout the weekend.

There could be wind gusts up to 50 mph Thursday night into Friday, and the wind will stick around, Doom said. The snow is also expected to be drier, meaning it will be easily blown around, creating dangerous conditions for travelers.

“We’re expecting sharp reductions in visibility for extended periods of time, which is why we’re concerned about travel,” Doom said. “We don’t want people to be fooled by the lower snow totals; this is still going to make travel very treacherous, especially on Friday … .”

The blowing snow will make it difficult to see on the roads and to see markings, Doom said.

In an email, DiMaio said the blowing and drifting could make travel “nearly impossible” Thursday night until 9 or 11 a.m. Friday.

Doom’s also “very concerned” about “extreme cold” during the storm, he said.

A cold front will move in Thursday afternoon, sending temperatures plummeting in the span of just a few hours. It’s expected to be right around 32 degrees — the freezing temperature — before the cold front moves in around 2 or 3 p.m.

By 6 p.m., that could fall to an actual temperature of 10 degrees, but it’ll feel as cold as 10 below zero thanks to the windchill, Doom said.

And by daybreak Friday, it could feel as cold as 30 degrees below zero, Doom said.

The brunt of the cold will come Thursday night, and it will stick around into Saturday morning, but the city will remain very cold for Christmas on Sunday.

“Brutally cold temperatures are going to continue into the weekend,” Doom said. “Overall, it’s going to be a very cold Christmas … .”

The sudden cold could create a “flash freeze” that further endangers travelers, Doom said. The roads will already be wet with the morning’s snow — and once the temperatures drop “very suddenly,” the water on the roads could freeze and turn to ice, he said.

“We’re very concerned about that,” Doom said.

AccuWeather meteorologist Tom Kines said people should take steps to protect themselves from frostbite, hypothermia and other cold-related medical issues.

“If you happen to, for whatever reason, be outside Friday, you definitely have to protect yourself from getting frostbite, hypothermia, anything related to the cold like that,” Kines said. “No. 1, stay indoors.

“If you have to be out, dress in layers. Wear a hat, a scarf, keep your body covered up. Don’t try going out there without gloves or mittens on or keeping your face unprotected, that kind of stuff. That leaves you susceptible to frostbite, and we don’t want that happening.”

Frostbite And Hypothermia

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns to watch for these signs of frostbite:

  • Redness or pain in the skin can be a sign frostbite is beginning.
  • Numbness.
  • White or grayish-yellow skin.
  • Skin that feels unusually firm or waxy.

People experiencing symptoms of frostbite should immediately seek medical care, according to the CDC. If immediate medical care is not available, the person with signs of frostbite should be brought into a warm room as soon as possible, according to the agency.

People with signs of frostbite in their feet or toes should not walk, and people should not massage the frostbitten area or rub snow on it, as these actions can cause more damage, according to the CDC.

People should put the skin affected by frostbite in warm but not hot water; if warm water isn’t available, warm the skin with bodyheat, like by putting frostbitten fingers in an armpit, according to the CDC. More information about frostbite is available online.

Hypothermia symptoms:

  • Shivering.
  • Exhaustion or feeling very tired.
  • Confusion.
  • Fumbling hands.
  • Memory loss.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Bright, cold skin and very low energy in babies.

People showing signs of hypothermia should have their temperature taken; if it is below 95 degrees, they should seek immediate medical attention, according to the CDC.

If immediate medical care is not available, the people should get into a warm room or shelter, remove any wet clothing and warm the center of their body — their chest, neck, head and groin — with an electric blanket, according to the CDC.

People experiencing hypothermia who are conscious can also drink warm drinks, but they should not have alcohol, according to the CDC.

Once the person has warmed up, they should stay dry and keep their body wrapped in a warm blanket, and they should get medical care as soon as possible, according to the CDC.

More information about hypothermia is available online.

Chicago Warming Centers

People who need a safe space to warm up can go to a city warming center, which open when temperatures are at 32 degrees or below. They’re open 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

The locations:

  • Englewood Center, 1140 W. 79th St.
  • North Area Center, 845 W. Wilson Ave.
  • Garfield Center, 10 S. Kedzie Ave.: This center is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to connect people to emergency shelter.
  • South Chicago Center, 8650 S. Commercial Ave.
  • King Center, 4314 S. Cottage Grove Ave.
  • Trina Davila Center, 4312 W. North Ave.

You can call 311 to find the warming center nearest to you. Older people can also go to one of the city’s 21 senior centers. Information about the senior centers is available online.

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