County in winter storm warning through Sunday

Freezing rain drips from a road sign along Winn Road as a driver passes by Friday in Richmond. A winter storm warning has been issued for McHenry County until Sunday at 6 p.m.
Freezing rain drips from a road sign along Winn Road as a driver passes by Friday in Richmond. A winter storm warning has been issued for McHenry County until Sunday at 6 p.m.

Snow is expected to blanket the McHenry County area a day after freezing rain glazed roadways and caused several weather-related car and slip-and-fall accidents.

The county is under a winter storm warning until 10 a.m. Sunday, according to the National Weather Service in Chicago. The preliminary forecast calls for anywhere between 4 and 8 inches of snow and sleet.

Precipitation may taper to a freezing drizzle during the evening before changing back to snow after midnight.

Up to one tenth-of-an-inch of ice may accumulate, the weather service said.

County snowplows and salt trucks tried to keep up with the freezing rain and dipping temps overnight Thursday into Friday. The entire fleet is again expected to hit the roadways Saturday in preparation for the storm.

“Our main focus was getting through [the freezing rain] so our guys could get home and get some rest before that system moves in,” said Mark DeVries, maintenance supervisor for the McHenry County Division of Transportation. “Our guys are doing a fantastic job.”

Temperatures hovering around 30 degrees are expected to continue until Monday when they could plummet into the teens, according to the weather service. There is a chance of precipitation four out of the next five days.

The forecast Christmas Day is calling for a high of 28 degrees with a slight chance of snow.

AAA projects 94.5 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the year-end holiday season, an increase of 0.6 percent from the 94 million people who traveled last year.

The upward trend marks the fifth consecutive year of increases and the highest travel volume recorded for the season.

The year-end holiday period is defined as Saturday to Jan. 1.

The busiest travel day at both Chicago airports was projected to be Friday, with 209,000 passengers at O’Hare International Airport and more than 66,000 passengers at Midway International Airport, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation.

Ninety-one percent of travelers (85.8 million) will travel by automobile, an increase of 0.9 percent, according to AAA. Nearly 30 percent of residents nationwide will take a trip this holiday, with more than 25 percent taking a road trip. Air travel is expected to decline slightly to 5.53 million travelers from 5.61 last year.

According to the latest data from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s annual Traffic Safety Culture Index, one in five of all licensed drivers that drink at least occasionally reported having driven when they thought their alcohol level might have been close to, or possibly over, the legal limit in the past year.

Illinois officials and local law enforcement agencies will be out in full force as they kick off their holiday safe driving campaigns.

Illinois has seen 950 traffic fatalities through Dec. 17 – 20 more than the same period last year. Ten people died in crashes last year during the Christmas holiday travel period.

The campaign will feature the familiar “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” and “Click it or Ticket” themes and include hundreds of roadside checks for drunken driving and seat-belt use through the first weekend of 2014.

Recently released federal data show drunken driving deaths increased 15 percent from 2011 to 2012, but it also shows a drop of 29 percent since 2007 – from 439 to 321 in 2012.

The Illinois Tollway expects 17.6 million vehicles will use the tollway system between Friday and Jan. 2 to travel during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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