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Winter storm: Snow tapers off here, Northeast braces for blizzard

Published: Friday, Feb. 8, 2013 9:55 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — A winter storm dumped almost 9 inches of heavy, wet snow in some far northern suburbs before tapering off Thursday evening.

A winter storm warning was set to expire at midnight for Lake and McHenry counties, with Cook, DuPage and DeKalb counties under a winter weather advisory.

Some areas, such as near Beach Park, had 8.5 inches by Thursday evening, with suburbs in Lake and McHenry counties expected to get a total of at least 6 inches, according to the National Weather Service. By Thursday evening, Elgin recorded 4 inches, while Hanover Park saw 3.2 inches and Evanston 2.1 inches, according to the weather service.

Chicago sent out 199 of its snow and salt trucks and expected to patrol main streets throughout the evening rush.

The Illinois Tollway mobilized its full fleet of 182 snowplows during rush hour and throughout the evening across the 286-mile system, according to a release.

North and northwest suburbs saw numerous accidents, from Barrington to Antioch, according to Traffic.com.

In McHenry County, police warned motorists to avoid U.S. Route 31 between Crystal Lake and McHenry because the road was "impassable" where it crosses over a hill.

The Weather Service warned that Thursday's storm produced what's "often referred to as a heart attack snow" because wet snow can cause people to overexert themselves, causing heart attacks.

"Be sure to take frequent breaks while shoveling so as not to overdo it," the weather service warned.

Some snow accumulation is possible into Friday's early morning hours, with up to an inch in northern suburbs, according to the weather service. After a possibility of flurries Friday morning, the day will turn sunny and temperatures will go up to the low 30s. There will be gusty winds of up to 35 mph in the afternoon. Saturday is expected to be sunny and in the mid-30s. A high in the mid-40s is expected Sunday, with rain.

Still, the storm was nothing like the one barreling toward New England with forecasts of up to two feet of snow. A blizzard warning has been issued for New York City, Connecticut and the Boston area.

Forecasters warned the snow would begin lightly on Friday morning but ramp up to blizzard conditions by afternoon, leading Boston Mayor Thomas Menino to order the city's schools closed Friday. He asked businesses to consider allowing staff to stay home.

"We are hardy New Englanders, let me tell you, and used to these types of storms. But I also want to remind everyone to use common sense and stay off the streets of our city. Basically, stay home," Menino told reporters. "Stay put after noontime tomorrow."

The National Weather Service said Boston could get one to two feet of snow on Friday and Saturday, which would be its first major snow fall in about two years. Light snow is expected to begin falling around 7 a.m. EST on Friday, with heavier snow and winds gusting as high as 60 to 75 miles per hour as the day progresses.

"It's the afternoon rush-hour time frame into the evening and overnight when the height of the storm will be," said Kim Buttrick, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Taunton, Massachusetts. "That's when we expect the storm to begin in earnest."

The heaviest snow was expected around Boston, the region's most populous city, with cities from Hartford, Connecticut to Portland, Maine, expected to see at least a foot.

If more than 18.2 inches of snow fall in Boston, the storm will rank among the 10 biggest snowfalls on record in the city. The heaviest snowfall ever recorded in Boston was a 27.6 inch dump that accompanied the blizzard of February 17-18, 2003.

The storm's timing brought back memories of the blizzard of 1978, Boston's second-heaviest recorded snow fall, which roared in on an afternoon, dropping 27.1 inches of snow, trapping commuters on roadways and leaving dozens dead across the region, largely as a result of downed electrical lines.

Peter Judge, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, said one of the state's biggest worry is power outages.

"It being winter, folks losing their power means they're also losing their heat, and if you lose heat during the middle of the storm, you're not going to be able to go out to get to a shelter," he said, adding that the agency would begin 24-hour operations at its emergency compound at noon (1700 GMT) on Friday and would be in close contact with local utilities.

Unlike the 1978 blizzard, which had been forecast to drop far less snow than it actually did, he said he hoped several days of news coverage about this storm would prompt people to stay off the roads.

"People have been warned, they have been told what the issues are," Judge said. "We don't expect people to be surprised."

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