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Chicago's weather forecast includes a winter storm that could dump several inches of snow, bringing blizzard conditions

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CHICAGO (WLS) — A winter storm in Chicago this week is expected to dump several inches of snow on the region Thursday and Friday before the Christmas holidays, and bring very strong winds and dangerous wind chills.

The National Weather Service released a Winter Storm Watch for the entire Chicago area and Northwest Indiana.

The alert is in effect Thursday 9 a.m. through Saturday 6 a.m. for DeKalb, Kane, Kendall, Grundy, Livingston and McHenry counties. For the rest of the Chicago area, the alert is in effect from noon Thursday until 6 a.m. Saturday, with the alert beginning at 3 p.m. for areas north of Indiana.

ABC7 Chicago meteorologist Larry Mowry said the storm’s timing has increased and is now expected to strike earlier in the day Thursday. That means the western suburbs could start seeing snow at 9 a.m. Thursday, with the city seeing snow at noon, and northwest Indiana at 3 p.m.

Models show much lower than expected snow totals on Monday, when models predicted up to 19 inches of snow in some areas near the lake. Now models are showing a range of 3 to 8 inches, with many areas seeing less than 6 inches of snow, Mowry said.

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But it will be difficult to gauge the exact amount of snowfall as extremely high winds, in excess of 80 km/h, will be a major feature of the storm. They will bring blizzard conditions and the threat of power outages, as well as extreme travel difficulties due to blowing snow reducing visibility, Mowry said.

The possibility of power outages is particularly dangerous as very high winds compound the extreme cold, producing wind chill temperatures of around -20 to -30. After the storm, forecasted highs will struggle to break out of the single digits, and overnight lows will likely be below zero.

At these temperatures, it is possible to get frostbite in as little as 10 to 20 minutes.

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The forecast for this week has forced many vacationers to scramble to change their plans. Most airlines currently have weather waivers in place, meaning you can change your flights for free if you have flexible travel plans.

Chicago Warming Centers available at 6 locations across the city

Shopping, shoveling, salting: How locals and officials are preparing for the storm

On Tuesday, salt trucks lined up in Elk Grove Village as if preparing for battle; and, in a sense, they were.

“Almost anyone can outsource everything else, but you can’t outsource snow removal. It’s pretty much what our guys live and look forward to all year,” said Colby Basham of Elk Grove Village Public Works.

With plenty of time before the storm, they spend some of it loading the tanks with the beet juice which combines with the salt to clear the roads.

The same could be seen in other suburbs like Oak Forest. Because it’s the first snow event of the season, most towns have a full supply of salt.

“Last year was so mild that we have a dome full of salt and another house full of salt as well, so we’re pretty well stocked to start this season,” said Vince Kilcullen, of Algonquin General Services.

Gas is another story. The high cost of diesel is far higher than many cities had anticipated and threatens to push budgets into the red.

Suburban public works managers are closely monitoring the forecast and participated in a call with the National Weather Service. Federal emergency management officials are urging people to exercise caution and reconsider travel plans.

In the city, people flocked to hardware stores, supermarkets and the Mag Mile to prepare for the storm.

Many used Tuesdays to stock up on groceries at busy grocery stores, which are likely to get busier as the storm approaches. And hardware stores like JC Licht Ace Hardware in Bridgeport said rock salt, snowmelt and shovels were selling out fast. Snowblowers are particularly popular, given the amount of snow expected.

“There had been a shortage of snowblowers for the past two years with the supply chain and with COVID, so now the sellers are starting to reload, now we’re back in stock, so we might have some of the pent-up demand for the past two years as well,” said Jeremy Melnick, vice president of hardware at JC Licht.

And last-minute shoppers as well as some who placed holiday gift orders online flocked to stores, unable to wait any longer. Some were starting earlier than their usual Christmas Eve shopping plans, while others were no longer confident that their online orders would arrive on time, and so bought back-up gifts.

ComEd said it positions people and equipment to be able to respond quickly to potential power outages.

“We are positioning our personnel and equipment to respond quickly and safely to any disruptions resulting from this snowstorm,” said Terence Donnelly, president and chief operating officer of ComEd. “We realize that any interruption is an inconvenience to our customers, especially during holidays. Avoiding power outages and restoring service quickly is essential. We have strengthened our system over the years to reduce the impacts that a storm like this one can have on our customers.”

ComEd customers can text 26633 (COMED) to report an outage and receive restoration information, as well as follow ComEd on Twitter or Facebook. Customers can also call 1-800 EDISON1 (1-800-334-7661) or report outages via the website at or use the ComEd app.

ComEd warns people never to approach a downed power line and not to approach ComEd crews to ask about recovery times as they may be working on energized electrical equipment.

City leaders are scheduled to speak at the Office of Emergency Management at 11 a.m. Wednesday to detail how Chicago is preparing for the storm.

What are the criteria for a blizzard?

For a blizzard warning to be issued, the following conditions must prevail for three hours or more:

-The storm must have sustained wind or frequent gusts of 35 miles per hour or more

Snowfall and/or blowing snow reducing visibility to less than a quarter mile

Stay tuned to ABC7 Eyewitness News and for the latest forecast and snowfall amounts as the winter storm approaches.

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