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Trace of snow at O'Hare, but string of 'snowless' days may set record

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012 9:29 a.m. CST

(MCT) — School children and others looking forward to a snowy December might take heart that O'Hare International Airport reported snow there this afternoon. But it's looking unlikely that the trace of snow will be followed by enough accumulation to end the official streak of 280 days without snow that today tied an 18-year record.

"The snow that we're expecting for the area today is shifting south of Chicago," said Stephen Rodriguez, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, this afternoon.

"We're tied...if we go today we'll break the record" for the number of snowless days, he said earlier today.

Kids and snow lovers can still hold out hope, as there's a chance that we will see enough white stuff to leave the record intact.

But while the snow is expected to go into the afternoon, it doesn't appear likely to hit O'Hare with enough to end the snowless streak. If Monday closes without measurable snow, 2012 will break the record.

The key factor is the word "measurable," said state climatologist Jim Angel. Measurable snow is defined as one-tenth of an inch or more — any less is considered a "trace," he said, such as the snow measured at O'Hare on Nov. 23.

There has been some snow in other north and northwest suburban areas. ChicagoWeatherCenter.com reports that Lake Geneva, Wis., got .4 inches Friday night into Sunday morning, and Roscoe, Wonder Lake and Harvard all got .1 inch.

Northern Illinois, including Rockford and counties farther west, is expected to see some accumulation today, according to the National Weather Service, and a stronger storm crossing northern Wisconsin and Michigan could leave up to 10 inches of snow on the ground today, according to ChicagoWeatherCenter.com.

Monday's forecast, which includes slightly cooler temperatures, is similar, with some "scattered snow flurries and snow showers," according to the National Weather Service.

The timing of this year's first snow has stumped Angel, who said the average number of days between last and first snowfalls recorded at O'Hare, Chicago's official weather recording station, is 224.

"I've already lost in the office pool for the first measurable snow this year," Angel said. "My pick was Nov. 27."

WGN-TV meteorologist Steve Kahn said the drought has much to do with this year's record-breaking weather. Last winter's snowfall measured only 19.8 inches — a little more than half of the 36.7 inches marked as the average at O'Hare.

"We had an early end to the snow season — last year was notable particularly for its warm March," Kahn said. "That's why we have this record on the table now."

Angel said the drought, coupled with a dry November, are to thank for the lack of snowfall. November measured 0.95 inch of precipitation at O'Hare — less than half of normal rainfall, he said.

The lack of snow so far doesn't mean much for overall snowfall this winter. On average, about 90 percent of Chicago's average seasonal snowfall typically comes after Dec. 9, Kahn said.

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