It’s here, Chicago.
By Thursday evening, 1 to 2 inches of snow had accumulated across the Chicago area, said meteorologist Jake Peter from the National Weather Service of Chicago. At O’Hare International Airport, 1.1 inches had been recorded while 1.5 inches were reported closer downtown. Wind chills were expected to drop to negative 35 degrees.
Airlines canceled dozens of flights scheduled for Friday out of the two Chicago airports. By late afternoon Thursday, 544 flights scheduled for Thursday had been canceled at O’Hare and 255 had been canceled at Midway, according to the website FlightAware.
Here’s what you need to know about the weather, a white Christmas, past cold snaps and more.
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Thursday brought the first major winter blast of the season, a storm that crawled across the middle of the country, disrupting travel, upending holiday planning and shuttering much-loved holiday attractions including the city’s Christkindlmarket.
Although forecasters had called for temperatures to plummet throughout the day into the single digits — a 20 to 30 degree drop from morning — no storm proved too daunting for some hearty Chicagoans, who proceeded with business as usual on Thursday, as some were spotted jogging along Michigan Avenue or taking strolls with their families.
There’s cold, and then there’s Soldier Field-in-late-December cold. Bear weather, they call it.
For those unfamiliar with the phrase, many — including iconic coach Mike Ditka — believe the wintry conditions put Bears opponents at a disadvantage.
The point spread — the Bills are favored by 9½ — figures to be higher than the temperature on the lakefront, which is forecast to be 8 degrees at kickoff (noon, CBS-2) with a windchill of minus-14.
A white Christmas?
Remember 2021? It was 55 degrees on Christmas that year — but Chicago has experienced warmer temps on the holiday.
O’Hare International Airport, the city’s official recording site, reported a high of 57 on Dec. 25, 2019, making it the second warmest Christmas in the area. Yet neither were as balmy as the high of 64 on Dec. 25, 1982 — the warmest Christmas recorded here since 1871.
The following year, however, Chicago experienced the low temperature of minus 17 degrees — the city’s coldest Christmas.
‘You really have to be a little crazy to go out in this type of cold’
While the record for cold temperatures in Chicago took place Jan. 20, 1985, many of the city’s lowest recorded temperatures came from arctic snaps in 1872 and 1899.
The 1980s and 1990s saw frigid temperatures among the city’s coldest recorded, however only three days at or colder than 16 below — Jan. 6, 2014 and in two in January 2019 — took place after the year 2000.
‘Stranded in a biting snowstorm, you find yourself doing things you never imagined’
Chicago’s 10 largest blizzards come with deep drifts of uniquely Chicago stories. A mayor voted out for mishandling stranded vehicles. A populace demanding a subway to compensate for stuck trains. Prisoners making a break from county jail. Runaway steers that escaped a crashed truck.
Read all about Chicago’s 10 latest snowfalls since 1886 here.
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