Winter storm to bring season's first snowfall this afternoon

2012-12-20T06:55:00Z 2012-12-20T15:56:03Z Winter storm to bring season's first snowfall this afternoonTimes Staff
December 20, 2012 6:55 am  • 

The latest first snowfall of the season in Chicago-area history is set to fall this afternoon with the arrival of a winter storm that forecasters say could cause blizzard-like conditions near the Lake Michigan shoreline in Lake and Porter counties.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning from 3 p.m. Thursday to 3 a.m. Friday for Cook, Will, Lake and Porter counties. A winter storm warning is in effect for LaPorte County from 6 p.m. Thursday to 6 p.m. Friday.

Thursday morning's rain will change to snow from west to east late this afternoon or early this evening, with snow likely being heavy at times. The heaviest snowfall and lowest visibility is expected to occur in the Chicago metro area between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Snow is expected to linger through Thursday night, with strong winds  causing blowing and drifting snow and reduced visibility.

Forecasters said Thursday morning that some uncertainty remains with regard to predicted snowfall amounts. Accumulations of 2 to 6 inches are likely, with the highest amounts expected in the far north and northwest suburbs and in northeast Porter County.

Winds will increase throughout the day to 30 to 45 mph by late afternoon and will continue Thursday night with gusts up to 60 mph. Wind gusts near the Lake Michigan shoreline in Lake and Porter counties could exceed 60 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

The combination of the snowfall and strong winds are expected to cause greatly reduced visibility and near blizzard conditions. The winds could also cause minor damage and sporadic power outages, forecasters said.

Falling temperatures will cause roads to become snow-covered and treacherous for motorists, likely impacting the evening rush hour.

Forecasters are warning that the greatest chance for blizzard-like conditions is near the Lake Michigan shoreline in Lake and Porter counties.

Jasper, Newton and Benton counties are under a high wind warning from 3 p.m. Thursday until midnight. Winds in those counties are expected to to be steady at 30 to 40 mph with gusts of up to 60 mph.

The winds could cause downed tree limbs and power lines, blowing and drifting snow, reduced visibility and treacherous road conditions, forecasters said.

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