Cardinal Francis George is watching the forecast closer than most.
If Chicago's approaching winter storm delays flights out of the city, it could delay George's trip to Rome for Pope Benedict XVI's final days and the meeting of the conclave.
"I have to be at the Vatican by 11 Thursday," George told NBCChicago Monday.
George says he's worried his Tuesday flight to Rome could be proactively canceled by the airlines as the winter storm approaches. His staff said they're working on options to fly him out of Chicago tonight.
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch beginning Tuesday morning through midnight.
The storm is expected to develop during the second half of the morning rush, first producing snow mixed with sleet then continuing through the day with heavy snow at times north of I-80, where 3 to 6 inches will be possible by the evening.
Pope Benedict on Monday issued a rule change that could speed up the timeline for choosing his successor.
The change allows cardinals to move up the start date if they all arrive in Rome before the usual 15-day transition. Once the cardinals meet in what's called General Congregations, they will set the date for the conclave, which is now scheduled for March 15.
“It’s an intense moment because it’s taken very seriously,” George said over the weekend. “Hopefully the conclave will make a good pope. It worked last time and the time before that so I'm sure it will work this time too.”