Frigid Cold Replaces Snow

Winter snow warning ended six hours early

The Chicago area was warned there'd be snow, and Mother Nature delivered, dropping about six inches across the board.

A Winter Storm Warning, due to be in effect until 9 a.m. Friday, ended just before 3 a.m. as steady snow turned to flurries. Originally a Winter Weather Advisory, the alert was upgraded  National Weather Service upgraded the alert Thursday morning because of wind gust forecasts.

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Flakes started flying in Chicago before 9:30 a.m. Thursday, missing the morning rush. Rockford and Oswego saw flurries before 7 a.m. Totals hovered between 3.5 and nearly 5 inches by Thursday night.

A day later, snowfall totals throughout the area leveled out to about six inches. Chicago Ridge saw 6.5 inches, while DeKalb got 5.3. In Northwest Indiana, morning lake-effect flurries threatened adding another inch.

With snowfall over, winds are expected to increase Friday to 20-25 mph, resulting in more drifting snow. Wind chills force temperatures to single digits during the day and between zero and 10-below by Friday night.

Light snow showers are possible Saturday mainly in the afternoon and evening. Highs could reach the low- to mid-20s.

Sunday looks a little warmer, but nothing compared to last week's mild winter. The mostly sunny, breezy day reaches highs in the upper 20s.  

Commuters: Roadways Manageable, Airports a Nightmare

Airport travel was nearly back to normal Friday after a long day o

Two people had to be extricated from their vehicles Thursday after a crash involving four cars and a tractor trailer during the season's first big snowfall.

A total of five people were injured -- one critically -- in the midday crash near Half Day Road on the Tri-State Tollway in Deerfield, said Ian Kazian, the fire chief of the Deerfield-Bannockburn Fire Department.

Kazian said he believed the crash was weather-related, and offered advice to those taking to the roads: 
slow down, keep the distance between you and the vehicle in front of you, and if you can, stay off the roads."

While the evening rush was worse than the morning commute, for most it appeared to be just a minor hindrance. Salt placed down on the roads seemed to be doing its job melting the snow and keeping the roadways from freezing over.

There were a couple of fender benders along Lake Shore Drive, but nothing major, officials reported.

NBC Chicago crews traveling along the Dan Ryan and Eisenhower expressways reported better-than-expected conditions, though still slow-going, for the season's first big snow.

By evening, the full fleet of Streets and Sanitation's snow-fighting equipment was out in force. Those crews can be tracked online via the city's new "plow tracker" website.

Commissioner Tom Byrne, watching weather reports, said he anticipated a "great" rush hour for Friday morning.

The news wasn't so positive at the city's airports, which proactively canceled flights as the snow approached.

At Midway, Southwest Airlines canceled all flights in and out of the facility between 1 p.m. and 6 p.m., affecting about 100 flights. Other airlines at Midway canceled more than 40 more flights for the day.

At O’Hare, airlines canceled more than 420 inbound and outbound flights and reported delays because of de-icing procedures. At its peak, O'Hare was reporting delays as long as 1 hour and 20 minutes.

As always, travelers were advised to check their airlines’ Web sites to confirm the status of their flights.

Flurries moved into Chicago around 9:30 a.m. after a winter storm advisory went into effect. Just before 11 a.m., the advisory was upgraded to a winter storm warning.

To prepare, the Illinois Department of Transportation readied 465 snow-fighting trucks Thursday morning. Still, the Chicago area hasn't dealt with this much snow in months, and IDOT warned commuters to stay alert and leave extra time to prevent crashes and slide-offs.

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[View the story "Jan. 12, 2012 Winter Storm" on Storify]

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