‘Don't Let Your Guard Down' as Snow Total Predictions Shift, Experts Say. What to Know

"The snow is not the main story with this storm!" the NWS reported

While projected snow totals for the upcoming winter storm seem to be shifting, experts say that's not the focus of concern for the Chicago area.

"Impacts from this storm will be driven by the combination of cold, wind, and snow rather than snow alone," the National Weather Service tweeted Tuesday afternoon. "Don’t let your guard down by unimpressive snowfall forecasts; the combined effects will lead to dangerous travel conditions."

The NBC 5 Storm Team reported the most recent snowfall predictions indicated totals of up to 8 inches, possibly more, were possible with the system, but some parts of the Chicago area could see smaller amounts -- and there are multiple factors behind that prediction.

But while snowfall totals continue to change in the lead-up to the major winter event, experts say the predictions for strong winds and dangerously cold temperatures have remained "steadfast for over a week."

"The snow is not the main story with this storm!" the NWS reported.

But regardless of snowfall, the guidance for travelers has not changed: Do not travel if you don't have to.

Any snow that does fall Thursday night and Friday will likely be mixed with 45-60 mph wind gusts that could make for "blizzard" or "white out" conditions, particularly Friday.

"These conditions can quickly reduce visibility to near zero," said NBC 5 Storm Team meteorologist Paul Deanno.

Add to that the fact that wind child temperatures will drop to between -20 and -30 degrees by Friday afternoon, making any time spent outdoor dangerous and bringing the potential for icy road conditions on top of the blowing snow.

"If possible, consider alternate travel plans," the NWS tweeted.

A winter storm watch begins Thursday morning in McHenry, DeKalb, Kane, LaSalle, Kendall and Grundy counties.

Things will "rapidly" worsen heading into Thursday afternoon, with snow growing more widespread and becoming stronger.

A winter storm watch for Lake, DuPage, Kankakee, Cook and Will counties in Illinois, and Lake, Porter, Newton and Jasper counties in northwest Indiana begins Thursday afternoon, according to the NWS.

The alert warns that "falling and blowing snow may result in white out conditions with zero visibility at times, making travel extremely difficult, if not impossible."

"Power outages will also be possible as a result of strong damaging wind gusts to 55 mph," it states.

Icy roads could add to the hazardous conditions as temperatures rapidly fall.

The winter storm watch is slated to continue through late Friday evening as the storm and potentially "blizzard-like" conditions hold strong.

But according to the NBC 5 Storm Team, when all is said and done, the amount of snow left in your area could be deceiving. While the totals will depend on the storm itself, they'll also depend on the wind.

"Some places will look like they got a foot or more of snow because the strong winds deposited 'extra snow' there," Deanno said. "Other places may look like little snow fell because the wind carried much of it away."

The strong winds are expected to linger through Saturday and the dangerously cold wind chills are set to continue through the Christmas holiday.

Difficult travel conditions could linger, particularly in the morning hours Saturday, as blowing and drifting snow remains a concern.

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