The Illinois Department of Transportation on Friday urged drivers to consider postponing unnecessary road travel this weekend as heavy snow, bitter cold and gusty winds threaten the Chicago area during a winter storm taking aim at the region.
IDOT expects the winter storm will "create hazardous conditions across the state," including extremely slick conditions and poor visibility.
"IDOT crews will be out on the roads but conditions could still be extremely hazardous, so we encourage motorists to ask themselves if they really need to make the trip," said Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman in a statement. "If you do have to travel, remember that the bitter cold and wind reduces the effectiveness of the materials we use to treat snow and ice. There will be lengthy travel times so make sure to prepare your vehicle in the event you are stranded."
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday for Cook, Lake, DuPage, DeKalb, Kane, La Salle, Kendall, Grundy, Will, Winnebago, Boone, McHenry, Ogle and Lee counties through midnight. A winter storm watch was previously issued for the Chicago area from 6 a.m. Saturday until Sunday morning.
Get Chicago local news, weather forecasts, sports and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC Chicago newsletters.
Forecasters say that steady, blowing snow will be the primary threat from the storm, causing dangerous travel conditions throughout the area.
Snow accumulations will vary widely depending on the track of the storm, but forecasters say that accumulations of greater than six inches are possible, along with northeasterly winds gusting in excess of 35 miles per hour.
Travel will be difficult at times during the storm, with blowing snow expected to dramatically reduce visibility in open areas.
Forecasters say that the steadiest snow rates will likely occur from 2 p.m. through 8 p.m. Saturday.
IDOT said more than 1,800 trucks and equipment will be deployed statewide to treat roads and respond to weather emergencies. Drivers are asked to slow down and increase driving distance if you encounter a plow or maintenance vehicle.
If you must travel, IDOT recommends:
• Take it slow, especially when approaching intersections, ramps, bridges and shaded areas that are prone to icing.
• Make sure your gas tank is full.
• Keep a cell phone, warm clothes, blankets, food, water, a first-aid kit, washer fluid and an ice scraper in your vehicle.
• Check the forecast and make sure someone is aware of your route and schedule.
• Carry a cellphone and dial *999 in the Chicago area for assistance in case of emergency.
• Reminder: Using handheld phones while driving is illegal in Illinois, unless it is an emergency situation.
• If you are involved in a crash or break down, remain inside your vehicle, which is your safest form of shelter. Exiting your vehicle into live traffic can have fatal consequences.
• Always wear a seat belt, whether you’re sitting in the front seat or back seat. It’s the law.
IDOT provides regular updates on statewide road conditions at www.gettingaroundillinois.com.