After more than a foot of snow being dumped on parts of northwest Indiana, four counties in the region have declared a state of emergency.
Lake, Porter, Newton and Jasper counties made the declaration following the snow system that has brought Winter Storm and Blizzard warnings to the area and parts of east central Illinois.
Dozens of drivers in Newton County spent the entire night stuck in their vehicles, some reporting having been there up to 15 hours. As of 8 a.m. motorists traveling on US 24 inhadn't moved since 5 p.m. when a semi jackknifed on the roadway. Newton County Sheriff's have not been able to travel through to rescue the stranded drivers.
About 30 miles north and across the state border motorists in Grant Park, Illinois were left battling similar struggles on Route 17.
Grant Park police said Thursday morning a warming shelter has been opened at Community Park while IDOT officials continue to work through the slow process of clearing all the vehicles and snow.
White-out conditions were possible as powerful winds move through, with gusts expected to reach upwards of 55 mph at times, whipping the snow around and reducing visibilities to near zero, making all travel dangerous if not nearly impossible at the height of the storm, the NWS warned.
Lake, Porter, Jasper and White counties in Indiana were under the highest level of travel advisory, with motorists being warned that only emergency vehicles should be on roadways.
Snow began Wednesday morning as a mixture of rain and sleet before it develops into heavy wet snow in the afternoon and evening hours. Temperatures in the 30s will fall to become quite windy and colder as snowfall continues overnight.
A Winter Storm Warning began at 9 a.m. for Cook and Will counties in Illinois and Lake and Porter counties in Indiana and lasts through 4 a.m. Thursday. The warning began hours earlier at 6 a.m. for Ford, Iroquois, Kankakee and Livingston in Illinois and Benton, Jasper and Newton counties in Indiana. These areas could see heavy, wet accumulations of snow varying between 1 and 7 inches.
A Lakeshore Flood Warning will go into effect at noon and run until 4 a.m. Thursday. Strong winds could allow waves to build up to 14 feet across Lake Michigan's northeast shores, according to the NWS.
"The highest amounts are expected south of I-80 in Cook County and in eastern Will County," the NWS said in a statement. "Snowfall totals could vary substantially over short distances with some areas within the warning likely seeing much less snowfall, especially in the northwestern portion of the counties."
Thursday snow showers will likely wind down early in the morning for the Chicago area, but not until later in the day to the east in NW Indiana.
Projected snow totals by 12 a.m. Friday:
- Aurora: 2.3"
- DeKalb: 1.1"
- DuPage: 2.3"
- Gary, IN: 6.3"
- Kankakee: 7.8"
- Midway: 4.6"
- Morris: 3.8"
- O'Hare: 3.1"
- Peru: 1.0"
- Rockford: .2"
- Romeoville: 4.4"
- South Bend, IN: 9.0"
- Valparaiso, IN: 7.6"
- Waukegan: 2.3"
- Wonder Lake: 1.1"