As several inches of snow fall across the Chicago area overnight, motorists are urged to stay off the roadways as much as possible Wednesday, as heavier, wet snow is expected to impact the morning commute.
According to the National Weather Service, the heaviest snowfall on Wednesday is expected to fall during the morning commute, with an inch to an inch and a half of snow falling per hour during the worst part of the winter storm.
Snow is expected to gradually taper from west to east, though roads will continue to be slippery and "snow-covered" in the meantime, the National Weather Service noted.
“I strongly encourage you to stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Tuesday. “Statewide, we have more than 1,800 trucks and plows ready to go.”
The governor issued a disaster declaration, paving the way for the National Guard to provide assistance during the storm.
The Illinois Department of Transportation tweeted a map of the state's roadways Wednesday morning, noting that many were covered with ice or snow.
As of 6 a.m. Wednesday, Illinois State Police said that Interstate 74 westbound was closed at mp 158 due to "multiple crashes and hazardous conditions." Traffic had been rerouted onto U.S. Route 150.
I-55 southbound was also closed at mp 178 due to crashes, ISP added, and is expected to last several hours.
In Chicago, the city’s Streets and Sanitation department deployed its fleet of more than 200 salt spreaders and plows to help keep arterial roads, as well as DuSable Lake Shore Drive, as clear as possible.
The Illinois Tollway is also engaging its entire fleet of snow-removal vehicles and salt spreaders, according to officials.
Even as plows fight to keep roadways clear, residents are still being urged to postpone any unnecessary travel, or to use public transportation when possible.
The Chicago Transit Authority says it is working to keep railways clear, and will continue to deploy resources to assist with the morning commute on Wednesday.
CTA announced most rail service will continue operating Wednesday amid the winter weather conditions, aside from some signaling issues on the Green Line.
Metra said no changes have been made due to weather conditions and schedules will remain in effect. However, Metra noted that some train lines could experience delays.
As of Wednesday morning at around 6 a.m., Chicago's O'Hare International Airport had canceled 299 flights, along with 78 canceled flights at Midway, according to the latest data. Most delays were less than 15 minutes.
Residents that absolutely have to travel are being advised to adhere to the following tips:
- If you are involved in a crash or a breakdown, stay inside your vehicle if at all possible. Activate hazard lights and try to move to the side of the road if possible.
- Make sure your gas tank is full before you leave for your destination.
- Keep a fully-charged cell phone, warm clothes, blankets, food, water and a first aid kit in your vehicle, along with extra windshield wiper fluid and an ice scraper.
- Make friends and loved ones aware of your travel schedule, and the route you intend to take.
The snow is expected to largely subside, or even stop, by Wednesday evening, but the far southern suburbs and parts of northwest Indiana could see more snow on Thursday, which could complicate yet another morning commute.