Weather, Crashes Shut Down Skyway, I-294 Ramp

Winter Storm Advisory canceled, flood watch initiated

By Andrew Greiner, Kim Vatis and BJ Lutz
|  Thursday, Dec 24, 2009  |  Updated 6:46 AM CDT
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Icy conditions and multiple crashes forced officials to close the Chicago Skyway Wednesday night, adding more frustration to what has already been a hectic travel day.

One of the pileups on the Skyway included at least 12 vehicles, officials reported.  A crash involving 20 vehicles closed the ramp from northbound Interstate 294 to westbound Interstate 88 in Oak Brook.

Officials say roadways are heavily iced, and crashes are being reported throughout the area.

The skyway was being re-opened as of 11:30 p.m.

The winter wallop likely came at one of the worst times for most travelers.

O'Hare and Midway airports reported more than 250 cancellations and dozens of delays because of the weather.  Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins said the airline canceled most of its afternoon outbound departures.

He described travel at Midway as "a very slowed operation."

Wednesday was expected to be the busiest day of the holiday period at Midway, with 60,000 passengers. About 190,000 are expected at O'Hare, but Sunday is expected to be that airport's busiest day.

As always, travelers are advised to continue checking in with airlines for updated flight information.

The roadways didn't fare much better Wednesay evening.  The rush hour commute was anything but a rush, with traffic moving at a crawl as snow continued to fall.

The travel impediments come as predictions of a new cover of snow have turned into a forecast of mostly rain.  Already, ice and sleet have begun accumulating and will continue mixing with snow Wednesday night.

The rain is expected to continue into Thursday. So much rain, in fact, that the National Weather Service has issued a flood warning for Christmas Eve.  Temps will climb to the upper 30s.

Christmas morning  will also be rainy, with a chance of cloudiness. 

On the bright side, the National Weather Service has canceled a winter storm watch that was supposed to hit Chicago Wednesday. The watch stays in effect for the far north and northwest suburbs, but should give holiday travelers leaving from Chicago a break.

Airlines hoping to beat the rain and sleet that’s heading to Chicago have asked traveling passengers with tickets to fly out of O’Hare and Midway this evening to change their tickets and take a morning flight.

Steve Broughton, who was flying to Arkansas today, heeded that advice.

He had flight tonight but saw there were a few seat on the early morning flight and he is hoping to get on the flight.

“I think its a good idea” Broughton says of the airlines warnings.

Another woman, Jennifer Hoffman did the same. She paid $60 to change her ticket to a morning flight.  

Check in with NBCChicago for up to the minute weather alerts, traffic alerts, airport delays and school closings related to the coming storm.

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