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Chicago weather: Latest updates on winter storm, travel updates and more

by staff

With snow falling, and temperatures expected to drop drastically in the next couple of hours, Chicagoans are making last-minute preparations for the holiday weekend as cancellations are beginning to pile up across the city, from flights to holiday attractions.

Temperatures are expected to drop of 15 to 20 degrees in two hours beginning around 2 to 3 p.m. Thursday, reaching zero degrees and maybe even the negative single digits, according to meteorologist Scott Baker with the National Weather Service of Chicago. Snow was expected to start falling around 11 a.m., and increase as the day goes on, according to forecasters.


“Dangerously cold” wind chills will reach 30 to 40 degrees below zero across the entire Chicago area by Thursday night into Friday morning, Baker said. Winds of up to 45 and 50 mph will blow the fine, fluffy snow, thus reducing visibility considerably, creating near-whiteout conditions at times, according to meteorologist Kevin Doom.

In preparation for severe weather expected to pass through the area, as of 12:30 p.m., 516 flights scheduled for Thursday had been canceled at O’Hare International Airport, and 247 had been canceled at Midway, according to the website FlightAware.


Airlines had also already canceled dozens of flights scheduled for Friday out of the two Chicago airports. The forecasted weather prompted Amtrak to make changes to its schedules including Christmas Day travel. For a complete list of changes, please visit Amtrak.com.

Thursday’s Metra service appeared steady as of this morning, but a few modifications were posted for Friday’s service. Metra asked commuters to monitor weather conditions before making plans.

As of 10 a.m., no major disruptions were reported for the Chicago Transit Authority.

In the meantime, in preparation for the storm, Chicagoans rushed to liquor stores, dispensaries, home improvement shops and grocery stores to stock up on necessities and more.

“We’ve seen incredibly strong demand from the second the news broke about the weather,” said Jason Erkes, a spokesperson for Sunnyside, which has 10 cannabis dispensaries across Illinois. “A lot of people see cannabis as a staple — bread, milk, water in case your pipes freeze and a good vape and some edibles.”

Sunnyside dispensaries are seeing extended wait times of over an hour and lines rivaled only by those seen during big events like Lollapalooza, Erkes said. When recreational sales started in Illinois in 2020, wait times did exceed those seen now as lines snaked around blocks.

The dispensaries are advising customers to place orders online as they seek to optimize operations. “We’re doing our best to get people through the line as quickly as possible,” Erkes said. “And at best, give them as much space to wait inside the store as we can.”

“I can’t think of a better product to have around the house when you’re locked down with relatives over the holiday because of the weather,” Erkes added.


Shoppers wait to check out at Patel Brothers grocery store the day before a winter storm is expected to pass through the area on Dec. 21, 2022 in Chicago.

Liquor stores have seen an increase in business in addition to the normal seasonal increase in store purchases for gifts and celebrations, said Binny’s Beverage Depot director of communications Greg Versch. “We’re seeing increases over that … as people are stocking up,” he said.

“We have seen a jump in business,” Versch added. “It parallels what you see in grocery stores, only instead of toilet paper and milk, it is bourbon and Chardonnay.” Binny’s will close on Christmas Day but will remain open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Versch said.

The streets of downtown Chicago appeared business as usual, as people bundled in their hats and parkas and strolled on the streets, holding grocery bags or taking their dogs for walks before the temperature drop. Some decided to take a jog.

West Loop resident John Stolken isn’t too worried about the weather. As a local, he says he’s seen winter storms before and thinks it will look similar this time around.

He grabbed breakfast this morning and browsed Nordstrom, with plans to stay in for the day. With most of his family living in the suburbs, the weather didn’t affect his holiday plans too much except for a dinner planned for tonight that was cancelled.

”Hopefully it’s not going to be as bad as they say it is,” he said.


Lori Atkinson said she and her family of five drove out two hours from Northern Indiana, hitting little traffic on their way to the city. They brought out their kids for some sightseeing before staying indoors for the rest of the day.

They came to Chicago to see the Lion King tomorrow evening and don’t expect to change that plan. In the meantime, they’re going to let the kids have some fun around Magnificent Mile and the Harry Potter exhibit at Water Tower Place.

”We were just saying, it’s really pretty out,” she said.

Some of Chicago’s popular holiday traditions will be closing early due to the expected blizzard-like conditions and extreme cold:

  • Adler Planetarium: Closed Friday through Sunday.
  • American Blues Theater: Ended its run of “It’s A Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!” Shows for today and Friday are canceled.
  • Chicago Botanic Garden: Closed Friday through Sunday. Lightscape is canceled today and Friday. Ticket holders will be contacted by email with more information.
  • Chicago Transit Authority’s Holiday Bus: Last two runs on #29 State and #J14 Jeffrey Jump — scheduled for today and Friday — are cancelled.
  • Christkindlmarket: The Daley Plaza and Aurora locations close at 4 p.m. today and will not reopen again this season. The Wrigleyville location is closed today through Sunday, but reopens at 11 a.m., Dec. 26.
  • Lincoln Park Zoo: Closed Friday and ZooLights canceled until Saturday.
  • Winterland at Gallagher Way: Closed today through Sunday. Reopens Dec. 26.

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