National Weather Service Predicts Historic Blizzard
Gusting winds expected to exacerbate conditions during snowstorm, making travel nearly impossible.
A winter blizzard is heading this way and it could compare to the worse storms in recent history, including those in January 1967 and January 1999.
“We’re going to be measuring total snowfall in feet,” said Ed Fenelon, meteorologist for the National Weather Service, Chicago office. The worse conditions are expected from 9 p.m. Tuesday until 5 a.m., Wednesday, he said.
“Snowfall will be heavy and at times visibility will be less than 100 feet. We’re expecting 2 to 3 inches per hour at the height of the storm. That rate is tremendous,” Fenelon said. The quickly accumulating snow will make it difficult for snowplows to keep up with the storm.
High winds are expected to exacerbate the problem conditions.
“Winds could be gusting at 40 miles per hour or over and drifts can add up to as high as 3 or 4 feet,” Fenelon said.
Fenelon said this storm could compare to the infamous Chicago blizzard that occurred Jan. 26 to 27, 1967, and resulted in an accumulation of 23 inches. That storm was accompanied by blowing and drifting snow. In more recent history, a storm dumped 21.6 inches, reported at O’Hare Airport, between Jan. 1 and 3, 1999.
The blizzard watch went out yesterday around noon, Fenelon said, but meteorologists were alerted to hazardous weather heading this way a couple of days prior.
At this point, it looks like the worst of the storm will hit the southern Chicago metropolitan area.
“It depends on the track of the low pressure system. If the track is a little further south, it will be heavier south . . . Lake and McHenry are at the northern periphery of the heavier band of snow expected,” Fenelon said. “But it will be bad regardless, because of the high winds and poor visibility.”
The National Weather Service predicts that travel will be nearly impossible overnight.
More snow is expected along the lake on Wednesday, due to lake effect. Temperatures on Wednesday are expected to drop down into the single digits.
Fenelon said Chicago doesn’t like to close down, but this storm could be the exception.
“This is one of those storms that may be best handled from the comfort of the indoors,” Fenelon said.
While precipitation is difficult to predict, Fenelon said the chance of this storm missing the region is almost zero.
The National Weather Service advises that people stock up on food and medicine by Tuesday afternoon.
“There could be a period where you will not able to get out at all. It would be no fun getting stuck in a snow drift without food or water,” Fenelon said.
Here is the break down of biggest snowstorms to date:
- 23 inches, Jan. 26-27, 1967
- 21.6 inches, Jan. 1-3, 1999
- 19.2 inches, March 25-26, 1930
- 18.8 inches, Jan. 13-14, 1979
- 16.2 inches, March 7 to 8, 1931
- 15 inches, Dec. 17 to 20, 1929
- 14.9 inches, Jan. 30, 1939
- 14.9 inches, Jan. 6 to 7, 1918
- 14.3 inches, March 25 to 26, 1970
- 14 inches, Jan. 18 to 20, 1886
The NWS reported additional snow storm statistic for the Chicago area:
- The earliest recorded 10-inch snowfall in a winter season occurred in Nov. 25 to 26 1895
- The latest recorded 10-inch snowfall a winter season happened in April 1 to 2, 1970
- The closest back-to-back 10-inch snowstorm happened on March 25 to 26, 1970 followed by another 10-inch snow six days later on April 1 to 2, 1970.
- The longest period of time without a 10-inch snow or greater was 18 years between Feb. 12, 1981 and Jan. 1, 1999.
For more winter storm statistics for the Chicago area, visit the National Weather Service's website.