Hundreds of flights canceled at Chicago airports - Fox 2 News Headlines

Hundreds of flights canceled at Chicago airports as storm moves in

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CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

Dense fog is snarling rush hour travel, as one of the strongest storms the Chicago area has seen in a February comes into the area packing rain and dangerous 50 mph winds Thursday evening, and throughout the night.

The fog that has engulfed downtown Chicago is just a precursor to the storm, as the warm air moves out of the area and a cold front comes in, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Charles Mott.

"We are seeing a lot of black ice on the roads . . . that combined with heavy fog out there today and right now, we are just urging people to take it slow out there," AAA Chicago spokeswoman Beth Mosher said.

Mosher urged drivers to keep a good distance between cars, and to be mindful of bicyclists in the fog.

"There are a lot of bikers on the road, particularly in the city of Chicago. Drivers need to be hyperaware of bicyclists because with this dense fog, it's very, very difficult to see. If bicyclists do have a daytime running light, they should use it."

Fog caused a pileup involving multiple vehicles on I-57 near southwest suburban Peotone on Thursday afternoon, bringing traffic to a halt.

The crash near Wilmington-Peotone Road involved multiple vehicles and was caused by heavy fog, State Police said Thursday evening.

All northbound lanes of the highway are closed and traffic is stopped as of 5:30 p.m. as crews continue to respond.

The low visibility has prompted a ground stop at Midway Airport, and no flights are arriving or departing as of 5:20 p.m., the city's Department of Aviation said.

Airlines there have canceled 180 flights Thursday, 170 of which are on Southwest Airlines, which called off all of its flights after 4 p.m., officials said.

Some flights are getting out of O'Hare Airport, but only flights already in the air are allowed to land at the airport, where 285 flights were canceled Thursday.

By about 5:30 p.m., a line of storms mixed with strong winds is expected to hit several Illinois counties, including Cook, Kane, DuPage, Will and Lake, late afternoon into early evening. And by the evening, temperatures will drop from the upper 40s to the 20s.

"The cold winds are going to be gusting at 50 mph. You will really feel that wind," National Weather Service meteorologist Richard Castro said.

The high winds will pick up to 60 mph in some areas and will stick around all Thursday night.

"The large-scale, really strong winds will be during the evening hours to the late evening, and then come down some. But they'll still be gusting up to 45 to 50 mph through much of the night," Castro said.

The same storm system is wreaking havoc in several other states, causing a blizzard in Iowa, heavy snow in Minnesota and severe thunderstorms in Kentucky and Tennessee, Castro said.

"This particular storm could be one of the strongest storms to affect the region in February, in terms of how low the pressure gets at the center," Castro said. "It's a pretty impressive storm."

The winds will remain strong on Friday morning and throughout the day, Castro said. Friday will reach a high of just 31 degrees, ahead of a very cold weekend.

A flood watch, triggered by morning rain, expired mid-afternoon as rain continued melting mounds of snow in several counties. Flooding is still possible near the Kankakee River, the Little Calumet River in Munster, Ind. And the DuPage River near the Bolingbrook and Naperville border.

The Illinois Tollway is deploying its full feet of 182 snowplows Thursday evening to manage the roads and has canceled all temporary lanes closures until 11 p.m.

Jimmy Thompson, of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources told reporters Thursday the Chicago area is handling Thursday's daytime rain well, although at least one Chicago neighborhood might have some flooding.

"Albany Park is an area of concern. That is the only are that I am aware of right now," Thompson said. "That potentially could be an issue."

Illinois State Police Lt. David Byrd said police responded to nine property damage car accidents due to the weather Thursday, with one minor personal injury accident.

"We believe we didn't get as much rain, but crews were already out and are preparing the roadways for travel," Byrd said. "I also think that a lot of people are taking it easy and driving slower, and getting more distance between vehicles."

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