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updated: 1/13/2012 8:03 AM

Bitter cold follows first snow of the year

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  • A truck plows the parking lot in front of JCPenney at Westfield Hawthorn mall in Vernon Hills.

      A truck plows the parking lot in front of JCPenney at Westfield Hawthorn mall in Vernon Hills.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Deb Bresloff of Mundelein cleans off her car at Westfield Hawthorn mall in Vernon Hills.

      Deb Bresloff of Mundelein cleans off her car at Westfield Hawthorn mall in Vernon Hills.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • A plow scrapes accumulating snow off the roadway on Route 38 in Elburn.

      A plow scrapes accumulating snow off the roadway on Route 38 in Elburn.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer


Thursday's snowstorm coated the suburbs with between four and seven inches, but now people should get ready for cold, cold air, meteorologists say.

The main accumulating snow tapered off around midnight, as meteorologists expected, but light flurries will continue to fall through this morning.

Elk Grove Village recorded 5.3-inches of snow overnight, while Hoffman Estates recorded 4.5 inches, officials said. Waukegan recorded about had about 5 inches of snow, while Lake Villa recorded 4.1-inches. In DuPage and Kane Counties, Elgin, St. Charles and Algonquin took in about 6-inches overnight.

The snowstorm was mixed with blustering winds gusting near 25 mph and wreaked havoc for travelers at both major airports.

The weather forced Southwest Airlines to shut down its entire fleet at Midway Airport from 1 until 6 p.m., officials from the Chicago Department of Aviation announced Thursday.

As of 8:30 p.m. Thursday evening, more than 420 flights had been canceled at O'Hare International Airport, while passengers continued to experience delays of about 45 minutes. More than 145 flights were canceled at Midway Airport, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation.

The Chicago Department of Aviation announced at 7:40 a.m. that both airports are now back operating normal, and working to get stranded passengers out on their earliest flights.
West Aurora District 129 canceled all elementary and middle school after-school and evening activities Thursday, spokesman Mike Chapin said. A sixth-grade concert at West High was canceled.

The Eola Community Center in Aurora was without water for much of Thursday, Aurora city spokesman Dan Ferrelli said, due to a car that hit a nearby fire hydrant. The Fox Valley Park District canceled afternoon preschool and all youth programs between noon and 2 p.m. Thursday.

In Lake County, Warren Township High School canceled all its Thursday evening events, including freshman orientation. It has been rescheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 18. Woodland Elementary District 50 canceled all evening activities as well, including the Woodland Middle School concerts. The concerts have been rescheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 17.

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The storm brought a sigh of relief for some workers who rely on the snow for some extra cash in their pockets.

Carl Schoedel, Kane County director of transportation, said some of his staff had been champing at the bit in anticipation of the first big snowfall.

"For a lot of the more seasoned guys who aren't as in need of the cash, they don't look forward to it," Schoedel said. "But for some of the guys who really need the overtime, it's been a long dry spell."

Roads in the collar counties Thursday night and into Friday morning got the worst of it, with cars are sliding into ditches and road signs.

"Nothing serious so far, as of injuries. Knock on wood," Illinois State Police Master Sgt. Timothy Tippet said about 6:30 p.m.

"It is obviously the first major snowfall of the season. We appreciate everyone slowing it down," Tippet said.

Kevin Kerrigan, an engineer with the Lake County Department of Transportation, said 25 snow trucks were out throughout the night and stayed on top of the snowfall.
However, he said, the temperature change and blowing snow slowed things down farther than expected.

"But, we're still on top of it, still have all 25 routes covered, and the roads are passable," he said. "The temperature drop last night slowed some things down, then the blowing snow added to the problems, but we'll stay on top of it.

Illinois Department of Transportation spokesman Guy Tridgell said at least 350 pieces of equipment were operating throughout Cook County and the surrounding counties well into the evening to try and keep the roads clear.

"We were able to get a leg up yesterday (Wednesday) by pre-treating some of the areas that are susceptible to icing," he said.

After a December and early January when temperatures in the 50s became almost commonplace, wind chills ranging from zero to -10 degrees are in the forecast for today.
"It's probably going to be a bit difficult to get really warm now that we have snow on the ground," National Weather Service meteorologist Kevin Birk said Thursday night. "Tomorrow's going to be a very, very chilly day."

In the meantime, temperatures will dip to about 15 degrees, with wind chills that will make it feel like three degrees below zero.

The high is expected to only reach 20 degrees, with wind chills making it feel like its about five degrees, meteorologists said.

If the snow would have held off just four days later until Monday, this winter would have set a record for the least amount of snow in Chicago's history to that point.
Before Thursday, just 1.9 inches had fallen.

Although nothing to the extent of Thursday's storm is in the upcoming forecast, more snow could be on the way soon.

"For the next week or so we are going to be in a more active weather patterns," Birk said. "We are going to get some storm systems come across the region."

As of Wednesday, there had been three days where highs reached into the lower 50s in January, and the average high for the month was nearly 44 degrees, according to weather service records. Those temperatures aren't likely throughout the rest of winter, but meteorologists aren't ruling them out.

"It is quite possible that we could get another warm spell in February. Definitely not out of the question," Birk said.

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