Flight cancellations, delays as snowfall hits Chicago - Chicago News and Weather | FOX 32 News

Flight cancellations, delays as snowfall hits Chicago

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

A winter storm zeroing in on Chicago caused hundreds of flight cancellations Thursday and near-blizzard conditions are possible during rush hour.

The Department of Streets and Sanitation had been actively preparing for the upcoming winter since August. This was the first chance so far this season for the city and suburbs to roll out the plows and salt trucks.

It's been awhile since Chicago area residents heard the terms "near-blizzard conditions" and "thundersnow," but the first accumulating snowfall event of the season brought some of that Thursday.

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What started as rain Thursday afternoon gave way to snow flakes prompting the National Weather Service to issue a winter storm warning to be in effect until 3 a.m. Friday.

The city had gone 290 days without significant snow accumulation through Wednesday.

The heaviest snowfall, strongest winds and lowest visibility are expected between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m., according to the weather service. Two to six inches of accumulation is likely, and possibly more in the northern suburbs and northwest Indiana.

Wind gusts up to 50 miles per hour could cause blowing and drifting snow throughout the night.

You can track when the snow plows will reach your area on a special city website.

The site shows how many plows are out and where they are, and also includes some cool videos and other information to show you how the city clears the streets.

The falling temperatures and near-blizzard conditions will cause roads to become snow covered and make rush hour travel "treacherous," according to the weather service.

The Illinois Tollway said it mobilized its full fleet of 182 snowplows in preparation for the storm. It has also canceled all temporary lane closures through Dec. 26 to help with snow removal.

"This weather event is expected to impact most of the Tollway system -- from Rockford to Chicago -- resulting in rapidly deteriorating driving conditions across the entire region," Illinois Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur said in a statement. "We urge everyone to stay off the roads this afternoon and evening, if possible, but if you must drive, slow down and allow plenty of extra time for the commute home."

Drivers should definitely have a snow-scraper, shovel, and a blanket in their cars Thursday, just in case the snow makes it difficult to get around. Those can all be found at your local hardware store.

FOX 32 News reported from a Chicago Home Depot Thursday morning, where they showcased various winter staples, along with some essentials you might not have thought of yet this season.

Before leaving for the airport, travelers should check the status of their flights. 

United Airlines announced Wednesday that it is waiving its change fees because of the storm. Customers can reschedule the day or time of their flight free of charge - but only once.

The offer applies to Chicago and at least nine other cities in the path of the storm.

In the air, low visibility caused airlines to cancel nearly 300 flights at O'Hare Airport, according to the city's Department of Aviation. Delays have been averaging between 30 and 90 minutes for both inbound and outbound flights all afternoon as of 3:30 p.m.

 

At Midway Airport, airlines canceled more than 150 flights and Southwest Airlines has canceled all of its Midway flights after 4:30 p.m. The airport was reporting "minor delays" Thursday afternoon, according to the Department of Aviation.

Passengers planning to travel on Thursday, and those picking up passengers, should check their airline's website for flight status.

In Elk Grove Village, the team at MP Landscaping also prepared for Thursday's snow storm.

"We got all our crews in place, getting all our equipment, making sure everything is working, checking all our checks and balances, making sure our equipment is on site, ready to go, our staff is ready to go," M3 Landscape Management President Dominic Muzzappa said. "We can't have any break downs throughout the night as we go."

For Dominic Muzzapappa, the season's first snowfall means the family-owned business will deploy four shovel crews, 25 plow trucks and three salt trucks in Elk Grove Village and the surrounding far Northwest suburbs. At least four inches of snow could fall in that area early Thursday evening.

"Last year, I believe, we went out and plowed about four times. Typically in Illinois you get about 10 plow events, 15 salt events where we just go out and now plow and put salt down for ice and snow," Muzzappa said. "And this year there's been nothing so far. Nothing. We're hoping, it looks like there's some activity."

Jerry and Lucille Stzyzynski are looking forward to the winter weather heading our way.

"The snow blower is ready and the decorations are just waiting to have some snow on them," Jerry, an Arlington Heights resident said.

The Chicago snowless streak was still going strong Wednesday night.

"We've been pretty fortunate so just for the holidays and then that's it, no more," Lucille said.

While the snow will end by Friday morning, it will still be very windy, according to the weather service. Highs will be in the upper 20s Friday, with northwest winds between 25 to 35 mph in the morning with gusts of up to 45 mph. Temperatures will dip Friday night, with lows in the mid-teens in the outlying areas to the lower 20s downtown.

Saturday was expected to be mostly sunny, with high temperatures around 30 degrees.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

In Elk Grove Village, the team at MP Landscaping also prepared for Thursday's snow storm.

"We got all our crews in place, getting all our equipment, making sure everything is working, checking all our checks and balances, making sure our equipment is on site, ready to go, our staff is ready to go," M3 Landscape Management President Dominic Muzzappa said. "We can't have any break downs throughout the night as we go."

For Dominic Muzzapappa, the season's first snowfall means the family-owned business will deploy four shovel crews, 25 plow trucks and three salt trucks in Elk Grove Village and the surrounding far Northwest suburbs. At least four inches of snow could fall in that area early Thursday evening.

"Last year, I believe, we went out and plowed about four times. Typically in Illinois you get about 10 plow events, 15 salt events where we just go out and now plow and put salt down for ice and snow," Muzzappa said. "And this year there's been nothing so far. Nothing. We're hoping, it looks like there's some activity."

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