The morning commute should be much easier on motorists today as plows worked overnight to clear McHenry County roadways blanketed by several inches of snow Tuesday.
A winter storm now belting the East Coast dumped anywhere between 7 to 10 inches of snow on much of northern Illinois and northwest Indiana Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service. The snowfall, more than an inch per hour at some times, forced school cancellations and wreaked havoc on the evening rush.
County crews have been in clean-up mode since the snow slowed at around 10 p.m. last night, focusing much of their attention on east/west roadways now affected by drifting snow.
“When the sun went down last night, the snow picked up and it got just cold and windy enough to turn all the roads white again,” said Mark DeVries, maintenance supervisor for the McHenry County Department of Transportation. “When it stopped, we were able to catch up. The roads are in pretty good shape.”
Plows will continue to scrape and salt the roadways through the evening commute Wednesday, eventually ending a split shift that has been working since late Monday.
More than 9 inches of snow fell at O’Hare International Airport as of midnight, making it the most snow to hit the Chicago area since the Groundhog Day blizzard of 2011, according to the weather service. The season total now sits at 29.5 inches, slightly behind the average season-to-date snowfall of 30.7 inches.
Locally, Woodstock received more than 7.5 inches of snow Tuesday, while Rockford and Spring Grove took on 9.2 and 8 inches, respectively. The highest total reported as of Wednesday morning was in LaSalle County, where more than 11 inches hit the ground.
Tuesday’s storm also came less than a week after approximately 4.8 inches fell at O’Hare, and portions of Lake and McHenry counties received more than 10 inches.
Almost half of the season's snow fell in February, approximately 14.9 inches, well ahead of the 2012 February total of 5.6 inches.
“We’ve crammed a lot of winter here in the last four or five weeks,” said Mark Ratzer, meteorologist with the weather service in Romeoville. “We’ve gained a lot of ground and are slightly behind normal totals now.”
The forecast today includes temperatures in the mid-30s and a chance of some flurries in the morning. Winds will be between 10 and 20 mph.
Temperatures are expected to gradually increase into the weekend, when temps will hover in the mid-40s with a good chance of rain Saturday and Sunday.
— Lawerence Synett
The heavy snowfall that blanketed the McHenry County area throughout Tuesday should give way to gusty winds and drifting snow by the time residents hit the road for today's morning commute.
Crews from the McHenry County Division of Transportation worked into the early morning to clear the roads, even after snowfall was expected to stop around midnight.
But wind gusts as fast as 20 mph could make for patchy road conditions for morning travelers. The area saw between 5 and 10 inches of snow Tuesday that canceled schools and shut down some businesses.
"As long as the blowing snow behaves itself, we should be OK for the morning," said Jamie Enderlen, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Romeoville.
The weather service was advising morning motorists to still plan ahead for their commute, since snow drifts in the area could cause poor visibility along the roads. But county crews were working diligently throughout Tuesday to keep the local roads clear, even releasing the county's full fleet of 24 trucks to maintain roads during the evening commute.
The early March snowstorm covered the Chicago area with 7 to 10 inches of snow. At O'Hare and Midway International Airports, more than 1,000 flights were canceled as nearly 8 inches accumulated in both areas.
Locally, Woodstock reported 10 inches of the snow on the ground, while Crystal Lake and Cary reported 6-inch accumulations, as of 9 p.m. Wednesday. Earlier, around noon, McHenry had reported to the weather service 4.5 inches of snowfall. Out west, Rockford reported more than six inches and eventually saw 9.1 inches of snow by Tuesday evening.
Cloudy conditions with temperatures reaching the low 30s were expected today for McHenry County. Even without the snowfall, the county transportation division planned on using 14 trucks until 8:30 p.m. today, to make the roads safe for drivers.
The division had crews out all day Tuesday and overnight, salting and plowing county roads, from Rakow to Kishwaukee Valley.
Officials from the McHenry County Sheriff's Office reported fewer traffic-related calls than in last week's snowstorm that left some areas, like Richmond and Fox Lake, with 10 inches of snow.
"Once the storm stops, I think our roads will be cleared real quickly," said Mark DeVries, maintenance superintendent for the county transportation division. "I still anticipate a good rush hour in the morning."
Clearer road conditions this morning would be a transformation from Tuesday morning, when snow, freezing rain and drizzle began around 6:30 a.m. As moisture lifted to the northeast, snow began falling at a rate of 2 inches per hour.
School districts throughout McHenry County, from Woodstock District 200 to Huntley District 158, announced cancellations for the day, while Crystal Lake and Marengo delayed garbage collection by one day because of the storm.
Area municipalities postponed and canceled meetings, and many libraries also shut down early for the day.
The snowfall caused several accidents and calls for roadside assistance, but no major injuries. The snowy conditions in the Chicago area should give way to mid-40 temperatures and possible rain showers by the weekend, according to the weather service.
– Reporter Lawerence Synett contributed to this article.