Officials in the Chicago area are preparing for a round of potentially hazardous weather as the city braces for rain and high winds that could make for dangerous travel conditions along the lakefront.
"We’ve been anticipating some bad weather coming our way starting overnight tonight through Friday morning so for planning purposes we’re monitoring very closely now," said Rich Guidice, first deputy with Chicago's Office of Emergency Managament and Communication.
The National Weather Service has issued a High Wind Watch beginning late Wednesday through Thursday as the Chicago area braces for wind gusts between 50 and 60 mph and lake shore waves of up to 20 feet.
Very strong winds are expected to move through the area overnight and through the day Thursday, according to NBC 5 Storm Team models. Winds of this magnitude could make driving difficult and cause damage to trees and power lines.
ComEd also said it is closely monitoring the situation and has "proactively increased crew staffing and is readying equipment to respond quickly in the event of outages."
“This is a complicated storm with the potential for heavy winds, rain, and snow. ComEd has proactively increased staffing and has contractors available to respond in the event that there are weather-related issues,” Terence R. Donnelly, executive vice president and chief operating officer for ComEd said in a statement. “Our goal is to respond quickly and safely to any impact to our customers.”
The highest waves could occur near the Lake Michigan shore, causing a scenario similar to what the area saw on Oct. 31, 2014, when Lake Shore Drive flooded and trees snapped along the major roadway, blocking traffic.
The National Weather Service issued a Lakeshore Flood Warning between 4 a.m. Thursday until 1 a.m. Friday.
"We have a plan in place, we’ve had a plan in place for some years now," Guidice said.
The Coast Guard also warned people to heed heavy surf warnings and avoid the shorelines of Lake Michigan.
“Outdoor enthusiasts and curiosity seekers should stay clear and keep away from the shorelines. Safety is a number one priority,” Chief Warrant Officer Matthew James, commanding officer of Coast Guard Station Calumet Harbor, said in a statement. "In addition, mariners are also advised to heed weather warnings. Safe operations in heavy weather requires special equipment, experience and a vessel designed to operate in high seas."
Some areas could still see snow Thursday with the best accumulation chance in Northwest Indiana.
Any wintry mix that does develop likely will transition to rain by Thursday afternoon.
Chicago's Department of Streets and Sanitation said it will have as many as 210 trucks ready to deploy if needed.
"People should adhere to those public safety officials, public safety equipment that’s out there," Guidice said. "We recommend that no one tries to get aorund any of that stuff. Could get yourself in a dangerous situation."