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updated: 2/1/2011 7:24 AM

Could it miss us? Not this time

Forecasts sometimes fall short but blizzard likely to live up to hype

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  • During a snowstorm we had in Feb 2007 in Arlington Heights, it took awhile for the plow to come around as it was snowing so hard.  A cross-country skier took advantage, skiing down the middle of the street.  I took the photo from my home office window, says John Bruzan. Send your pictures and stories about today's blizzard and big storms of the past to storm@dailyherald.com and we'll share them online and run the best in print.

      During a snowstorm we had in Feb 2007 in Arlington Heights, it took awhile for the plow to come around as it was snowing so hard. A cross-country skier took advantage, skiing down the middle of the street. I took the photo from my home office window, says John Bruzan. Send your pictures and stories about today's blizzard and big storms of the past to storm@dailyherald.com and we'll share them online and run the best in print.
    Photo by John Bruzan

  • The snowstorm forecast for Tuesday night could be worse than the 1979 blizzard, forecasters say.

      The snowstorm forecast for Tuesday night could be worse than the 1979 blizzard, forecasters say.
    Daily Herald file photo

  • A Palatine resident shovels the snow from his roof following the blizzard to 1979. Forecasts predict Tuesday night's blizzard could be worse than the 1979 storm.

      A Palatine resident shovels the snow from his roof following the blizzard to 1979. Forecasts predict Tuesday night's blizzard could be worse than the 1979 storm.
    Daily Herald file photo

  • Cross country skis were the way to get around in Wheeling after the blizzard of 1979. Forecasts predict Tuesday night's blizzard could be worse than this one, dumping up to two feet of snow on the area.

      Cross country skis were the way to get around in Wheeling after the blizzard of 1979. Forecasts predict Tuesday night's blizzard could be worse than this one, dumping up to two feet of snow on the area.
    Daily Herald file photo

 
 

Here in Chicago, we're used to dramatic, dire weather forecasts.

Meteorologists usually get it right, but their forecasts sometimes miss the mark and we get all hyped up for nothing.

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Could that happen with today's snowstorm, which the National Weather Service has called "potentially life threatening" and one that could rival the 23-inch Blizzard of 1967?

Not likely.

As of Monday evening, computer models put the odds of the area getting more than 8 inches of snow at 85 percent, and the odds of getting more than 12 inches at between 55 and 70 percent, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Stephen Rodriguez.

He said it is statistically possible that a last-minute meteorological deviation of some sort -- such as dramatic shift south or dry air wrapping into the system -- could result in slightly smaller snowfall totals. But Rodriguez warned people not to get their hopes up.

"There is a strong storm moving our way," Rodriguez said. "We are expecting quite possibly one to two feet.

The National Weather Service forecast put the storm's bullseye just south of Chicago, roughly along I-80, where 21 to 24 inches is possible falling at rates of two to three inches per hour. Adding to the misery will be winds gusts at more than 50 mph, wiping out visibility and creating huge snow drifts.

ABC7 meteorologist Phil Schwarz said the odds of a computer model error this close to the storm's arrival is "next to impossible."

That the storm would somehow miss Chicago "would fly in the face of what every computer model is saying," Schwarz said. "Everything already exists for this storm to be a monster. The odds of us getting hit hard are very, very great. The least amount of snow anyone would get in our area would be six inches, and the vast majority of our area will be 12 and 18 inches."

Areas north and west of Chicago -- places like Antioch and Woodstock -- will get slightly less snow, Schwarz predicts.

AccuWeather meteorologist Cory Mottice agreed that the odds of computer programs and meteorologists misjudging the storm at this point are "very unlikely."

"It's looking more and more likely as it gets closer," Mottice said. "In a storm like this, you're going to have a very tight gradient where you have a lot of snow, and you don't go far, and you have a lot less snow ... but this storm has a very good feed from the Gulf (of Mexico). You're probably not going to have any dry spots. You're going to have very intense snow bands. It's definitely going to be terrible to go out in."

"There will be a significant amount of snowfall," Rodriguez said. "Right now, it's highly advisable to have some type of contingency for tonight into Wednesday."
The main storm wasn't anywhere near Illinois when the whole state was declared a weather disaster area.

And Southwest Airlines has canceled all flights in and out of Chicago's Midway Airport from Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday afternoon.

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