The huge winter storm which churned across the nation’s mid-section was responsible for a swath of heavy snow which spanned many states from Colorado to Nebraska and northeast. The axis of the storm’s heaviest snowfall occurred from Colorado’s mountains eastward to North Platte and Grand Island through Omaha—all in Nebraska—onto Des Moines, Cedar Rapids/Waterloo, Dubuque—all in Iowa—then on to Madison and Wisconsin Dells to Oshkosh, Wisconsin and Traverse City, Michigan.
Rain, wind and falling temps arrive in Chicago right on schedule within Thursday’s mammoth winter storm with meteorological impacts spanning 39 states
The mammoth winter storm, responsible for travel-halting snows and for huge pile-ups on major expressways to Chicago’s west in western Illinois, Iowa and to the north in Wisconsin, may not have produced huge snow totals in Chicago proper. But it generated enough snow to bring Chicago’s record breaking 290-day run without a measurable official snowfall in the city to an end at O’Hare Thursday evening at 6:30 pm. It’s also the moment a new record for the city’s latest measurable snowfall—December 20th—went on the books.
Sections of the Chicago area to the north and northwest watched, not only as wind-driven snows covered the ground, but as accumulations of 4 to 6.5” occurred. Rochelle (6.5”) and Rockford (4”) were among the areas hit by the storm’s sticking snow.
The storm responsible was huge, at one point responsible for weather watches and warnings across 39 states.
Its center tracked directly over Chicago Thursday afternoon, producing the area’s heaviest rains of any weather system in the past 5 months precisely as predicted—good news in an area in the grip of a severe drought and in serious need of moisture. Also accurately predicted were the storm’s powerful winds. Not only did these 50+ mph gusts materialize, they did so right on schedule. And predictions of the time of the switch from rain to snow also proved dead-on with Chicago’s evening rush hour escaping snowfall which could have seriously disrupted Thursday evening commuters on their nightly trek home.
Storm’s high winds generate power problems
Snow totals in the Chicago and areas south paled in comparison to those which were observed Thursday to the north and west—but the storm’s powerful 50+ mph wind gusts lived up to their advance billing, producing power outages, particularly across the northern suburbs.
Reports of possible lightning in the Crystal Lake area Thursday evening resulted from failing transformers, quite possibly the result of trees making contact with overhead lines in the 50+ mph wind gusts. Snow accumulations on tree branches may also have contributed to the interactions between trees and power lines.
The problem extended to communities beyond Crystal Lake, including River Forest, Cortland and Lake in the Hills.
Chilliest air since February settling over the Chicago area
With strong winds predicted to continue Friday as the coldest air, including the first sub-30-deg daytime temps in the 10 months since last February, moves in. Care is strongly suggested when driving in open areas Friday, particularly in the areas which did receive snow. Blowing snow can drop visibilities suddenly and without much warning along some stretches of roads in open areas and can also lead to icy pavements as strong winds like Friday’s manage to blow snow over the pavement.
Forty accidents were reported in Galesburg alone earlier Thursday afternoon as blizzard conditions locked in. At the same time, residents of Iowa were asked to stay off the roads due to whiteout conditions in which multi-vehicle accidents led to closure of sections of I-80.
The Madison, WI area was at the epicenter of this storm’s heaviest snows. Snowfalls as of 10:30PM Thursday included: 12″ at Lena in western Stephenson Co, IL and up to a foot or more across Jo Davies County in far northwest Illinois where 21 miles of US 20 were closed from Galena to Elizabeth due to snow and blowing snow.
Other snow totals closer to the Chicago area and northeast Illinois included: Freeport 6.5″; Williams Bay WI 4″; Polo 3.9″; Roscoe (near Rockford) 3.5″; Mt. Morris 3.3″; Rockford 4″; Grayslake 1.2″; Mundelein 0.9″; Beach Park 0.5″; Palatine 0.2″; Downers Grove, O’Hare and OakBrook 0.1″—with snow still falling at the time these observations were taken.
Those wondering where the big snows occurred must check out these eye-catching snow tallies out of areas farther north and west Thursday including 19.5″ at Middleton, WI—just west of Madison. Other totals included: Cross Plains WI 18″; Verona WI 16″; Hartford WI 15″; Madison WI & Dubuque, IA 14.2″; Portage and Taycheedah WI 14″; Grimes IA 13.4″; Des Moines 11.6″; Ankeny IA 10.5″, Ames IA 10.2″ and Eldora IA 10″.
Chicago area rainfalls, as predicted, were the heaviest to fall here in 5 months and, also as predicted, equaled ALL the rain which has fallen in the city the past 40 days. Rainfalls Thursday were: 1.32″ O’Hare; 1.38″ Midway; 1.26″ LaGrange; 1.25″ Rockford; 1.84″ Waukegan; 1.15″ Joliet; 1.19″ Lansing and 2.30″ Moline.