Near Blizzard Threatens Chicago Evening Commute Chaos

January 12, 2012; 11:01 AM ET
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Plummeting temperatures, snow, howling winds and blowing snow will result in near-blizzard conditions across portions of the Great Lakes by this evening.

An arctic cold front crossing the Midwest today will bring dramatic temperature drops. Following the record warmth on Tuesday, temperatures will be falling through the 20s in cities such as Chicago, Milwaukee and Madison by late today with tonight's lows dropping off into the teens. High winds will contribute to even colder AccuWeather.com RealFeel® temperatures that will add to the shock value.

Along with the push of drastically colder air, snow will spread from west to east into the western Great Lakes region today.

Chicago is expected to get 3-6 inches of snow with the worst conditions hitting late today and tonight. To the north, Green Bay, Wis., will get 6-12 inches of snow in the heart of the storm.

Chief Meteorologist Elliot Abrams emphasizes in his blog that the changes are starting out slowly on in Chicago, perhaps fooling some into thinking that nothing drastic will happen.

Later in the afternoon and evening, just in time for the evening commute, it will get colder and more windy with snow falling heavily around Chicago.

"This will not have the paralyzing effect Groundhog Day blizzard last year in Chicago, but travel will still become very hazardous," according to AccuWeather.com Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski. The big concern will be with a rapid freezeup and plummeting temperatures. Snow falling heavily this evening will start to coat and disguise a thin layer of ice forming underneath it.

Winds gusting over 30 mph will cause blowing snow, which will be "streaming almost horizontally." Snow will also be drifting. This will result in near-blizzard conditions across portions of Wisconsin and northern Illinois with visibility dropping below a quarter of a mile at times.


For a larger version of this snow map, visit the AccuWeather.com Winter Weather Center.

Motorists who travel along I-80 will run into extremely hazardous travel conditions this evening with a combination of very slippery roadway conditions and very poor visibility. Travel conditions will continue to deteriorate along I-90 and I-94 as well.

Airline passengers should anticipate delays at the Chicago O'Hare International Airport and other busy Midwestern airports.

The worst of the snow and wind will spread eastward across the Lower Peninsula of Michigan by late Thursday night and Friday morning. This means there will be a messy commute for Detroit on Friday morning. However, snowfall totals will be lower, 1-3 inches in Detroit.

Cold winds will continue to blow across the relatively mild Great Lakes through the end of the week, allowing for lake-effect snow bands to set up over the typical snowbelts downwind of the lakes.

"Two weeks of winter will be rolled up into two days," added Sosnowski to sum up the winter comeback across the Midwest and portions of the Northeast late this week.


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