Chicago Braces for Freeze-Up, High Winds, Snow Burst

By , AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist
December 20, 2012; 9:31 PM ET
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The storm that began as rain in Chicagoland will change to snow later Thursday, when a wind-driven, rapid freeze-up will lead to slippery travel.

While a severe arctic outbreak and excessive snowfall will not occur in Chicago, it will get cold enough, fast enough with high winds to cause problems.

As a blizzard wallops areas from Omaha to Green Bay, rain and increasing wind will affect the Chicago area from into Thursday afternoon. However, a sharp change to cold weather with high winds and snow is forecast to occur during the Thursday evening rush hour.

Bursts of snow will leave between 1 and 3 inches around Chicago. It is possible blizzard conditions develop for a brief time Thursday evening. A layer of ice and slush that forms on untreated surfaces can make for very slippery and dangerous travel conditions.

According to Chief Meteorologists Elliot Abrams, "If folks want to see a foot of snow they may only have to drive 80 miles to the west in the blizzard Thursday over northwestern Illinois or 80 miles to the east in lake-effect over northwest Indiana Friday."

Motorists should expect delays and very slippery conditions to spread eastward Thursday night.

Flight delays are possible, not only from the period of snow and icy conditions that can occur, but also from the high northwest wind gusts that can range between 50 and 70 mph.

O'Hare International Airport at Chicago is one of many airports in the Midwest that can experience delays Thursday and Friday due to snow and/or wind issues. (Photos.com image)

There is the potential for power outages, downed trees and minor property damage.

The plunging temperatures, high winds and snow squalls will slice eastward over Indiana, Ohio and Michigan Thursday night, potentially resulting in a similar rapid freeze-up on untreated surfaces.

In addition, the combination of heavy lake-effect snow and near hurricane-force wind gusts will make for whiteout conditions in the snow belts of northern Indiana, western Michigan and northeastern Ohio through Friday.

Strong winds will remain a problem Friday in Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Buffalo and Pittsburgh.

Another powerful storm could affect the Midwest around the same time next week (Dec. 26-27).

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