Chicago Forecast

When Will the Winter Storm Be at Its Worst in Chicago Area?

The winter storm has made its way into the Chicago area but the worst is yet to come

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Editor's Note: Friday is expected to be the coldest, most 'brutal' day of the storm, with wind chills of -35. For the latest on the storm, here's our live blog. Our original story continues below.

The winter storm has made its way into the Chicago area but the worst is yet to come.

While snow began falling across much of the area heading into the afternoon hours, the strongest winds and coldest temperatures are still on the way. And the snow is expected to linger into the evening.

According to the NBC 5 Storm Team, snow will continue into the evening before tapering off, but temperatures will quickly fall and winds will increase.

While wind chills were in the single digits Thursday afternoon, they are expected to drop well below zero overnight, reaching -34 degrees by 5 a.m. Air temperatures will plummet to 10 below zero, but strong winds will make it feel closer to -35 below zero. At such temperatures, frost bite will be possible within minutes.

Storm Team Meteorologist Paul Deanno said the "window of concern" for the storm is 6 p.m. Thursday to 10 a.m. Friday.

Snow is expected to taper from west to east overnight, but as wind gusts reach up to 50 mph Thursday night and Friday "considerable blowing snow is expected overnight and Friday," particularly in open and rural areas, according to the National Weather Service.

A winter storm warning is in effect for the entire Chicago area until 6 a.m. Saturday. A blizzard warning was also issued for part of northwest Indiana.

Latest forecast models show snow and blowing snow may result in "white- out conditions" that lead to zero visibility at times, making travel "extremely difficult." As dangerous temperatures plummet from 30 degrees to 16 degrees and wind chills as low as 25 to 35 degrees below-zero move in Thursday afternoon, roads are expected to become quickly iced-over.

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Conditions for frostbite are expected, and power outages are also a possibility, thanks to wind gusts up to 50 miles-per-hour.

And although the latest snow total predictions remain between three and six inches, with most of it occurring Thursday afternoon and into the evening, the combination of "gusty winds, and plummeting temperatures will make travel conditions treacherous from Thursday afternoon onward," the NWS says.

Thursday Evening

Travel conditions are expected to worsen and temperatures are expected to continue falling. According to the NWS, "a flash freeze may cause ice covered roads, topped by the snow," NWS says, with periods of white-out, "blizzard conditions" likely Thursday later afternoon and lasting into Friday.

Periods of snow, blowing snow and strong winds will continue, creating treacherous travel conditions. The bottom line, the Illinois State Police warns, stay off the roads "for the next couple of days" unless travel is "absolutely necessary."

Friday

While Friday may see some isolated snow showers, the majority of snowfall will have dissipated overnight.

However, strong winds as high as 45 to 50 miles-per-hour, blowing the snow that has already fallen could create blizzard-like conditions.

"Even when the snow stops, winds will still be strong," Deanno said. "So snow will be blowing around all over the place, making it look like it’s still snowing."

Northwest Indiana however could see higher snow totals, as lake effect snow in Porter County is predicted to take hold.

And while snow in the Chicago area is set to taper off, powerful winds dangerously cold temperatures and wind chills remain.

According to NWS, strong winds may result in power outages, and travel conditions could become "life-threatening" for anyone who becomes stranded on the road. "Near-blizzard and blizzard conditions are possible Friday and Friday night," the NWS says.

Additionally, the bitter cold wind chills below 40 degrees could result in frostbite, which can form on exposed skin in as little as 20 minutes, experts say.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

At 6 a.m. Saturday, the winter storm warning will come to an end. However, bone-chilling temperatures and ice covered roads are expected to remain. While wind chills will improve, they are expected to remain between 25 and 30 degrees below-zero. Strong winds are also expected to continue.

On Christmas Eve, skies are expected to remain cloudy, with temperatures in the upper single digits.

On Christmas Day, the cold will continue but the sun will peek through. High temperatures in the low teens are expected, with wind chills below-zero.

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