As March gets underway, Chicago is bracing for one of its biggest snowstorms of the winter thus far. Heavy snow is expected to pile up in the Windy City on Friday as a powerful late-season winter storm moves from the Plains to the Northeast, AccuWeather forecasters say.
Chicagoland will be near the northwestern edge of the storm and perhaps could experience a change to rain for a time. However, enough cold air should remain in place long enough to allow plowable snow to fall across the city. The expected accumulation will add to what has been a fairly paltry seasonal total for snow when compared to the historical average.
The storm that will be responsible for the late-week snow in Chicago was moving through the Southwest on Wednesday after bringing more rain and lower-elevation snow to storm-weary Southern California. The storm will emerge across the southern Plains and Mississippi Valley on Thursday and tap into some moisture from the Gulf of Mexico which will help produce an outbreak of severe thunderstorms that could potentially produce tornadoes.
With subfreezing temperatures expected to be in place, the precipitation will begin as snow in Chicago once it arrives on Friday morning. It appears the first flakes may start falling during or just after the morning commute, but motorists will not be as lucky for the drive home. Following an afternoon of snow and gusty winds, driving conditions will be poor on many roads for the evening commute before the storm begins to move away on Friday night.
The amount of snow that will fall is still highly dependent on a few conditions.
“The key to who in the Chicago area gets a lot of snow, and who sees more rain at times, is the track of the storm,” said AccuWeather Meteorologist Dean DeVore. “Some cold air pushing in from the north toward the end of the storm could also complicate the forecast, as some places that change to rain may end up going back to snow before the storm ends.” That cold air will also lead to icy spots into early Saturday, long after the last flakes have fallen.
Currently, the AccuWeather forecast is calling for 6 to 10 inches of snow to accumulate in the city and in the suburbs just to the north and west. Lesser amounts in the 3- to 6-inch range are forecast to the south of Chicago.
With temperatures expected to be near the freezing mark, any snow will be heavy and wet in nature, which could pose a danger to those shoveling after the event. It could also weigh down some tree limbs, causing some to snap, and potentially lead to power outages if those limbs fall onto power lines.
Despite the calendar just turning to March, a 6-inch snow event for the Windy City would make this storm the biggest of the season to date and Friday the snowiest day of the winter. The snowiest calendar day so far this season in Chicago was back on Jan. 25, when 3.6 inches was measured at O’Hare International Airport, the city’s official site used by the National Weather Service to document weather stats.
Overall, 17.9 inches of snow has fallen so far this season at O’Hare, which is well below the historical average through the end of February of 31.6 inches and only 57 percent of normal. By this point in 2022, 28.6 inches of snow had fallen at the airport.
A colder pattern expected to take hold across much of the northern half of the nation through the middle of March could mean additional opportunities for snow in Chicagoland in the coming weeks, according to AccuWeather’s team of long-range meteorologists.
Produced in association with AccuWeather