Winter Storm Warning for Chicago, up to 8 inches of snow ahead - | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

`Thundersnow` to accelerate snowfall, 8+ inches possible

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(davidwilson1949/Flickr) (davidwilson1949/Flickr)
CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

Snow started falling at rates up to 2 to 3 inches an hour throughout Chicago late Tuesday night and could pile up to 8 inches by Wednesday morning, the National Weather Service warned.

"I urge everyone to use caution and stay alert while we battle what will hopefully be one of the last winter storms," Gov. Pat Quinn said in a statement on the impending storm.

The weather service has issued a winter storm warning that started at 10 p.m. Tuesday and lasts until 1 p.m. Wednesday that includes Cook, DuPage, LaSalle, Kendall, Grundy and Will counties, as well as Lake and Porter counties in northwest Indiana.

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The accelerated rate of snowfall is being attributed to thundersnow, a rare and unstable type of storm system that brings thunder and lightning along with snow, according to forecasters.

Overall, about 4 to 8 inches of snow is expected to fall Wednesday until about 5 a.m., National Weather Service meteorologist David Beachler.

Rain began Tuesday evening and switched over to snow by about midnight, with flakes expected to fall at a rate of 2-3 inches per hour at times, the weather service said.

As snow fell early Wednesday, the city's full fleet of 280 snow plows and salt spreaders were deployed to clean main streets and Lake Shore Drive, according to a statement from the Department of Streets and Sanitation.

Once the snow stops and main roads are cleared, plows will go back out to clear neighborhood streets, the department said.

State agencies are also coordinating efforts for the storm, according to the statement from Quinn's office.

IDOT is readying its fleet of 1,750 snowplows to clear roads statewide, the statement said, and the Illinois Tollway is also preparing its full fleet of 182 plows.

The same warning took effect at 1 a.m. Wednesday for Jasper and Newton counties in northwest Indiana, where snow started falling after midnight.

Those areas could also see 4-8 inches of snow, with higher totals possible locally, the weather service said.

To the north and west of Chicago, Lake and Kane counties are under a less-severe winter weather advisory, but could still see 3-6 inches of snow by Wednesday morning.

"The further north you go, the less snow you're going to see," Beachler said. "The heart of it will fall in LaSalle, DeKalb and Cook County. It will then move east into Northwest Indiana."

Illinois State Police will monitor road conditions, as will the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, which is ready to activate emergency resources if necessary.

IDOT is encouraging drivers to travel only when absolutely necessary during adverse conditions.

Air travel in and out of O'Hare and Midway will likely be "adversely impacted" Wednesday morning, according to forecasters.

After a balmy 50-plus degree Monday, Chicago won't see springlike temperatures again until Friday, when the high is expected to reach the mid- to upper-40s, according to the weather service.

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