McHenry County residents saw their first snowfall of the season Tuesday, but the dusting will be light compared to the storm set to hit the area Thursday.
A winter storm watch is in effect for McHenry County from Thursday morning through Thursday evening, according to the National Weather Service.
Snow is expected to fall after sunrise Thursday morning and could continue throughout the day. Snowfall accumulation may reach six inches or more, and could cause travel delays during Thursday rush-hour traffic.
“Our crew is completely ready,” said Mark DeVries, maintenance superintendent for the McHenry County Division of Transportation. “We're going to get something … it just depends on how cold it gets.”
Depending on the pattern of the storm and the temperatures Thursday, McHenry County could get anything from heavy wind and rain to a solid dumping of snow.
Wind gusts could reach as high as 45 miles per hour Thursday, creating blowing snow and difficult travel conditions, according to the National Weather Service.
“Wind is the biggest issue,” DeVries said. “Visibility will be a problem with blowing snow.”
DeVries said that the first big snowfall of the season is often the most dangerous because drivers aren't used to the change in road conditions.
“Road conditions are different when we get snow,” he said. “Drivers need to slow down and keep spacing between cars. We tell people to expect the unexpected.”
At the Crystal Lake Menards, snow supplies were beginning to jump off the shelves Tuesday in preparation for the winter storm.
“Shovels, snow brushes … We're going through sidewalk salt like crazy,” said Justin Bellows, assistant store manager at Menards. “People are getting ready for snow.”
Bellows said it's not unusual for people to wait until the last minute, often the night before a storm, to get snow equipment. He expects a large number of customers will come in Wednesday if the storm continues its path toward McHenry County.
The Lowe's in Lake in the Hills has yet to see a rush of people preparing for winter weather, but Store Manager Gary Otto expects that will change once conditions worsen.
“Not as of yet,” Otto said when asked if he's seen people buying more snow equipment than usual. “If we really do get [what experts are calling for] then I'm sure we'll see more people coming in. But they're not knocking down the doors yet.”
The winter storm, which the National Weather Service has named Draco, has slammed the Pacific Northwest, and will leave two to three feet of snow in the higher elevations of the Cascades. The storm is then predicted to head to the Colorado Rockies Wednesday morning and travel through the Midwest Wednesday night and Thursday.
Winds are expected to remain as high as 35 miles per hour late Thursday night, which would cause reduced visibility from drifting snow, according to the National Weather Service.
“It's been so long since we've had snow,” DeVries said. “People need to remember to drive defensively.”