The National Weather Service is warning Illinois and Indiana residents to use extreme caution, as a winter storm that is pounding the region is hitting its peak Thursday afternoon.
According to officials, snowfall rates of an inch of snow or more are expected for several hours in several suburban counties, including Kankakee County in Illinois and Newton and Jasper counties in Indiana.
Areas to the north of that range could still see heavy snow of up to an inch per hour through at least 6 p.m., according to forecast models.
Snow bands currently moving over the area from southwest to northeast are bringing rapid accumulations, and gusty winds are causing near-whiteout conditions on many area roadways, leading to crashes and road closures throughout the area.
The heaviest snow is expected to fall through 6 p.m., and less-intense snow is still forecasted to hit the area through at least 9 p.m.
Forecasters are urging residents to stay at home if at all possible, and to slow down and increase following distance if driving is necessary.
Snow plows are having a difficult time keeping roads clear because of the heavy snow, officials said.