‘We've Had It All': Messy Winter Storm System Brings Freezing Rain, Sleet, High Winds to Chicago Area

A Winter Storm Warning went into effect at 6 a.m. and will remain until midnight

A dynamic winter storm system descended on the Chicago area Monday, bringing a messy and dangerous combination of snow, sleet, freezing rain and high winds.

A Winter Storm Warning went into effect at 6 a.m. and will remain until midnight for several counties, along with a Freezing Rain Advisory until 3 p.m. and flood warnings across the state.

The storm left hundreds of flights canceled and thousands without power in the Chicago area.

ComEd said at 9 p.m. that 88,000 customers lost power during the storm. A total of 24,500 remain without power. The company hopes to restore their power by tomorrow.

As of 3:30 p.m., more than 1,600 flights were canceled due to the weather conditions at O'Hare International Aiport and Midway Airport, officials said. The Skydeck at Willis Tower was also closed because of inclement weather.

Illinois' State Emergency Operations Center was activated Monday morning to help local emergency responders as they dealt with the flooding and winter weather.

"Representatives from several state agencies are in the SEOC and state officials are assessing the storm’s impact and communicating with local response officials to determine if state resources are needed to ensure citizen safety," a statement from Governor Bruce Rauner's office read. "The SEOC will remain activated as long as necessary."

Illinois Emergency Management Agency Director James K. Joseph urged residents to avoid travel if possible due to icy roadways in much of northern Illinois and flooded roadways in central and southern Illinois.

“Road conditions are hazardous in many areas of the state, so if you can postpone travel plans today that would be best,” Joseph said in a statement. “If you must travel, be sure to check on road conditions along your route. And as always, if you encounter water over a roadway, please remember, ‘Turn Around, Don’t Drown.’”

The Department of Streets and Sanitation deployed more than 280 snow plows and salt spreaders to Chicago streets Monday afternoon. 

"This is somewhat of a unique storm because you’ve had everything—you’ve had sleet, snow and now rain," said Commissioner Charles L. Williams with the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation. "We've had it all and that’s what makes it so treacherous."

The National Weather Service warned the icy precipitation could make travel hazardous, and drivers should use extra precaution on the slick roadways during their commutes.

Illinois State Police's Chicago district initiated its emergency snow plan. Officers will still respond to emergency situations, personal injury crashes, non-drivable crashes and stranded motorists, but those involved in a minor crash where all vehicles are still drivable are asked to exchange information and filed a report in the next 14 days.  

Freezing rain and sleet began to develop in the early hours of the morning, with upwards of a tenth to a quarter of an inch of ice accumulation possible in some areas from the storm system.

Just before 1 p.m., some suburbs reported sleet accumulations of more than an inch. In Cook County, 1.7 inches of sleet were reported in some areas. 

More than 10,000 NIPSCO customers in northern Indiana were without power amid the winter weather. Officials said the weather conditions resulted in downed power lines, which had been weighed down by ice and slick roadways caused vehicles to crash into electric poles. 

The icy rain mixture transitioned to all-rain by late-afternoon.

A High Wind Warning was also in effect for Lake and Cook counties in Illinnois until 7 p.m. Powerful gusts of wind could reach up to 60 mph in the Chicago area, bringing the threat of power outages.

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