Southland braces for ‘heart attack snow’
February 26, 2013 12:26PM
Traffic backs up as tow trucks pull cars from the ditches along the 13500 block of Wolf Road in Orland Park, Illinois, Tuesday, February 26, 2013. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 26, 2013 7:42PM
The storm system that dumped 15 inches of snow in parts of Oklahoma and buffeted the Texas panhandle with 80-mph wind gusts Monday has made its way to Chicago, and things have gotten messy in the Southland, as drivers who have ended up in ditches have learned.
In Orland Park, a couple of cars slid off roads into ditches, but Orland Park police Lt. James Bianchi said there were no injuries.
Other than that, “our public works department has done an outstanding job. Our roads are in good shape. We are doing really well,” he said.
Several Southland schools canceled after-school activities for Tuesday.
Tinley Park-based Kirby School District 140 and Community Consolidated School District 146, Oak Forest-based Forest Ridge School District 142, Homewood School District 153, Summit Hill School District 161 and Park Forest-Chicago Heights School District 163 canceled all after-school activities, while New Lenox School District 122 said all would be canceled except for the Liberty Chorus concert at Lincoln-Way West High School.
Several local religious education programs scheduled for Tuesday night were canceled as well.
A combination of sleet and wet snow began falling in the south suburbs Tuesday morning, and by late morning the mix had reached downtown Chicago, with temperatures hovering near or slightly above freezing.
As of about noon, enough snow was falling in Tinley Park that visibility was reduced for drivers.
There was sleet and freezing rain downtown, snow in the western suburbs and rain in northwest Indiana. It was expected to be all snow just in time for the Tuesday evening commute.
By Wednesday morning, there could be 3 to 5 inches on the ground, according to the National Weather Service, which has issued a winter weather advisory through 9 p.m. Tuesday. Higher amounts could fall in the western and northern suburbs, with lower totals to the south and in northwest Indiana.
The weather service noted that travel times on the roads and at airports could be significantly affected by precipitation and winds. Area transportation agencies were readying their snow and ice removal efforts.
The mix of precipitation was expected to transition to all wet snow in most places by early to midafternoon, according to the weather service. Snow was expected to continue into the early evening and be heavy at times.
With wind gusts as high as 35 to 40 mph — and higher near Lake Michigan — the wind-whipped snow could cause low visibilities and difficult travel conditions at times this afternoon and evening, according to the weather service.
Snowfall rates of more than an inch per hour could occur and this could also “significantly impact” travel at O’Hare and Midway airports, the weather service said.
Lighter snow was expected to continue at least through Thursday, forecasters said, as the system stalls over the Great Lakes region. By Thursday, high temperatures in the Chicago area could be in the mid-30s, according to the weather service.
Contributing: Sun-Times Media Wire, staff reports