First snowstorm of season arrives leaving travelers scrambling - FOX 32 News Chicago

PHOTOS: Most ComEd customers’ power restored after Friday’s storm

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Though the first winter storm spared much of the Chicago area, the wind gusts resulted in downed power lines and power outages throughout Illinois.

Most Commonwealth Edison customers' power has been restored Friday following outages caused by Thursday's winter storm.

"About 770 customers are still without power" Friday afternoon, a ComEd spokeswoman said, adding that a few isolated areas will be restored Saturday.

The majority of customers without power Friday afternoon — about 550 — are in the western region of Illinois hit hardest by the storm, including Rockford and the Quad Cities, the spokeswoman said.

More than 100,000 total customers lost power because of the storm, according to ComEd.

In Chicago, only 132 customers were still without power Friday afternoon, the spokeswoman said.

The winter storm warning was in effect until 3 a.m. Friday, but the city and most of the suburbs got less an inch of snow.

Temperatures stayed just above freezing in the Chicago area, so the snow didn't accumulate, said Gino Izzi, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Romeoville.

Before it even arrived, the storm caused hundreds of flight cancellations and a warning of near-blizzard conditions during the rush hour drive. Ultimately, though, flakes didn't start falling until later in the evening.

SEE: Flight cancellations, delays as Chicago area braces for snowfall

Despite lack of accumulation, wind gusts of over 40 miles per hour resulted in downed power lines and outages throughout Illinois.

Nearly 200 plows were sent out onto Lake Shore Drive and other main routes in the city as the first winter storm of the season closed in on Chicago Thursday evening.

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Drivers had to deal with rainy conditions and a little wet snow Thursday, but for the most part, rush hour was no big deal. That is expected to change overnight, however, leading to potentially icy conditions - especially on bridges and overpasses.

"I do want to advise folks if you are driving out there late tonight it could be very dangerous conditions on the road, the wind gusts are supposed to be really strong, over 50 mph possibly, so it could be very poor visibility," IDOT spokesperson Mike Claffey said.

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

As for the thick of the storm, people in Lake Zurich got to experience some blizzard-like conditions.

"If you're not paying attention, you'll probably get hit somehow," Lake Zurich resident Shane O'Donogue said.

Rick Morris and his daughter were already shopping and dining in the far northwest suburbs when the storm zeroed in - in just minutes.

The Lake Zurich resident was shopping with his daughter for Christmas gifts. When he went in the store, it was raining, and when he came out, it was snowing--a good surprise for his daughter, Gabrielle.

"Yes, a long time," 14-year-old Gabrielle Morris said about waiting to see snow. "I love the snow and it's just now come."

It has been 290 days since the last measurable snowfall.

Lake Zurich and surrounding areas could get up to six inches of snow in a matter of hours but did the first snowfall of the season live up to its expectations?

"Actually I thought it was going to be a lot worse," said commuter Daniel Quinones. "I love this kind of weather, it's beautiful but it's not that good for drivers right now so I hope that everyone who is listening to the radio or watching TV, be careful out there - the roads are kind of bad."

High winds and the threat of a major snow storm forced the cancellation of a thousand flights across the Midwest.

More than 500 flights were canceled at O'Hare. American Airlines took the biggest hit, leaving 271 airplanes on the runways and leaving passengers wondering if they're going to be unwrapping gifts with loved ones.

About 150 flights were canceled at Midway. Southwest Airlines canceled all of its flights after 4:30 p.m.

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

Twenty-year-old Erin Henderson was trying to return home to Kansas City after five months studying abroad in Italy. She arrived in Chicago to learn the last leg of her flight was canceled.

A teary-eyed Henderson planned to get some sleep in a nearby hotel before trying to catch a flight to St Louis in the morning. Aprielle Kugler had two flights to Des Moines canceled. The 18-year-old from Wisconsin said she may try to take a bus if she can't get on a flight.

In confronting his first winter storm, Commissioner Charles Williams, who has been in charge of City Hall's Streets and San Department for barely two months, made a big promise.

He told FOX 32's Mike Flannery that he expects a "normal rush hour" Friday morning and by the time most Chicagoans wake up, the city's 200-plus snow plows will already be clearing side streets.

City Hall's snow command had deployed 199 pieces of heavy equipment, even before the first flakes fell. Even before the ground froze, they were spreading salt across main thoroughfares, hoping to minimize the formation of dangerous patches of ice, and preparing to hit side streets as soon as the snow ends.

"If it stops around midnight, we're actually going to be hitting the side streets shortly after that," Williams said. "Our main concern with this storm is not necessarily the snow."

Williams added that this may be his rookie season fighting winter weather, but he said his veteran staff would deliver clean streets by morning.

"My first big snow, but the staff of the Dept of Streets and Sanitation will do an outstanding job," Williams said. "And I feel very confident in what they'll be able to deliver for the residents of this city."

Temperatures are expected to remain in the 20s Friday and will drop into the mid-teens Friday night.

"Winds are dramatically intensifying with the cold air surging," said Ed Fenelon, a meteorologist with the weather service in Romeoville.

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

"Anything that's not secured and is loose could go. There could even be some minor structural damage," Fenelon said.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

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