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Heavy snowfall makes for miserable morning commute

<p>Photo by Gary Middendorf/For Sun-Times Media&nbsp;</p>

Photo by Gary Middendorf/For Sun-Times Media 

Drivers returning to work after the New Year’s holiday were greeted with a slick and snowy morning commute, as a pair of weather systems continued dumping snow across the Chicago area.

The storm that arrived on New Year’s Eve dropped 5.1 inches of snow at O’Hare International Airport by midnight Thursday, the National Weather Service said.

The wintry wallop came courtesy of a second weather system that moved in early Thursday, weather service meteorologist Matt Friedlein said, making roads icy and visibility poor during the drive to work.

He said as much as 10 inches of snow could fall Thursday in isolated areas near Lake Michigan. Between 3 and 8 inches are expected to fall in Lake and Cook counties, forecasters said.

A lake-effect snow warning is in effect until Thursday afternoon for Cook and Lake counties in Illinois and Lake County in Indiana.

The city’s full fleet of 287 snow plows and salt spreaders was deployed Tuesday afternoon and, since the snowfall has been almost constant, has been continuously working to clear main and arterial roadways, said Molly Poppe, spokeswoman for the Department of Streets and Sanitation.

Many residential streets have yet to be plowed though, as the city’s trucks work to keep pace with the falling snow.

“We’re focusing on main streets right now,” Poppe said. “We’ll move to side and residential routes once our main roads are cleared.”

The city’s 26 smaller four-wheel drive plows will be dispatched once the city starts clearing side streets, she said, warning that residents should drive with caution as the roads are likely slippery in areas.

More than 635 flights were canceled Wednesday at O’Hare and flights were delayed at least an hour, according to the city’s Dept. of Aviation. At Midway International Airport, observers reported 4.6 inches of snow and flights were delayed at least 30 minutes.

As of 6 a.m. Thursday, 10.1 inches of snow had fallen in north suburban Niles, and at least 9 inches had accumulated in some northwest suburbs including Richmond and Cary, meteorologists said. Nearly 8 inches had piled up in Norridge.

Elk Grove Village, Elgin and Niles all saw more than 7 inches of snow as of 4 p.m. Wednesday.

But once the snow finally stops falling by Friday morning, NWS meteorologist Charles Mott said there will be more bad news.

“Then we’re going to get cold,” Mott said.

The most optimistic forecast predicts Monday’s high temperature will be 0 degrees.

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