To view Illinois Emergency Management Agency’s Winter Storm Preparedness Guidebook, click here.
To view the Indiana Winter Weather Preparedness Newsletter, click here.
National Weather Service, Chicago has a winter weather page with lots of information. Go to our web page, weather.gov/chciago, from the main menu on the left, under "Weather Safety", click on "Winter Weather". On our winter weather page you will find links to snowfall reports, snowfall records for Chicago and Rockford, historic snow storms, links to state road conditions, a wind chill chart and calculator, winter weather terminology and warning criteria, and more!
Winter Weather Safety Rules
- Check the latest forecast with NOAA Weather Radio – All Hazards, or at weather.gov/chicago before traveling.
- Let someone know your travel plans.
- Clear snow and ice off all windows and lights.
- Keep a winter weather disaster supply kit in your vehicle. It should contain an ice scraper, shovel, flashlight and extra batteries, blankets, a change of clothes, high energy, non-perishable snack foods, first aid kit, battery booster cables.
- Check windshield washer fluid, wiper blades, tires and gas before traveling. Keep the gas tank at least half full.
- If you become stranded on the road, stay with the vehicle. Do not attempt to walk out in the storm. Use a cell phone to call for help. Run the engine for short periods of time, about 10 minutes per hour, and open the window a crack for fresh air and to avoid carbon-monoxide poisoning. Make sure to keep the exhaust clear of snow. Tie a colored, preferably red, cloth to the antenna or door as a signal for help. Move arms and legs vigorously from time to time to keep warm.
- Let snow plows do their jobs. Give them plenty of room. Do not pass a plow unless there is plenty of clearance and visibility is good.
- Keep a winter weather disaster supply kit at home in case you can’t get out and/or you lose power. It should contain bottled water, flashlight and extra batteries, portable radio or NOAA Weather Radio – All Hazards, first aid kit, high energy, non-perishable food.
- Use extreme caution when using portable space heaters. Keep heaters at least 3 feet away from walls and furniture. Have a fire extinguisher and smoke alarms.
- Use alternate heat sources such as a fireplace or wood burning stove.
- Dress in loose, lightweight, warm clothing in layers and cover all exposed skin. Trapped air insulates. Outer garments should be water repellent. Wear a hat. Mittens are warmer than gloves.
- Avoid prolonged exposure to wind and cold. Stay dry.
- Confusion, disorientation, and slurred speech are signs of hypothermia. Get indoors and seek medical attention. Warm the core of the body first.
- Make sure animals have food, water and shelter.
- Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow, walking in deep snow, or pushing a car stuck in snow. The strain from the cold and hard labor could lead to heart attack. Sweating could lead to a chill and hypothermia.
- Check with your airline before heading to the airport.
1 KM satellite image of snow swath from northeast OK/southeast KS, across MO, IL and southeast WI from December 2006.
Outlook for Winter 2007-2008
With La Nina conditions occurring across the Pacific, above normal temperatures and precipitation are forecast for northeast Illinois and northwest Indiana the winter months of December through February. For more information visit the Climate Prediction Center
Winter Weather Reports
The National Weather Service needs your help! You can submit "spotter" reports by phone or web form during a winter storm. The most important winter weather reports would be;
Lightning and/or thunder - Lightning and thunder only occurs in the most vigorous of winter storms. Snowfall rates can be 2 to 3 inches an hour.
Ice and precipitation transitions - Rain changing to or becoming mixed with sleet, sleet changing to snow, freezing rain occurring, etc.
Storm Damage - tree limbs and power lines down from the weight of snow and ice.
Snowfall - accurately measured snowfall. (see below)
If you would like to measure and report precipitation on a regular basis, year-round, you can do so by joining CoCoRaHS. CoCoRaHS is a nationwide volunteer weather observing network for measuring rain, snow, and hail and reporting through the web. Observers are trained but must purchase their own equipmnet. They report once a day, in the morning but can also submit special reports for extreme events. For more information visit CoCoRaHS.org.
You can also submit reports to the NWS office in Romeoville anytime, anywhere, through a web form. Go to weather.gov/chicago, and from the main menu on the left, under "Current Hazards", click on "Submit a Report". (Deliberately submitting false statements on this form may be subject to prosecution under the False Statement Accountability Act of 1996 (18 U.S.C. � 1001) or other statutes.)
You can report by phone from 800 a.m. to 800 p.m, 7 days a week, at 815-834-1435. From the Rockford area you can call 815-963-5913
Snow Measurement Guidelines
The following procedures were developed from previous National Weather Service procedures and input from a broad array of expertise from climatologists, snow specialists, weather observers, and data users. Some of the materials have been extracted from AThe Snow Booklet@ by Nolan J. Doesken and Arthur Judson, CSU, 1996).
It is essential for all observers to understand the importance of taking standard measurements in the prescribed consistent manner. Inconsistent observing and reporting methods result in incompatible data which can result in profoundly incorrect differences between stations and observers.
Each season before the first snows come:
Review these instructions for measuring snow. It is easy to forget what needs to be measured.
Placement of snow boards:
Put your snow board(s) out and mark their location with a flag or some other indicator so they can be found after a new snowfall. They should be located in the vicinity of your station in an open location (not under trees, obstructions, or on the north side of structures in the shadows).
Observers should determine two values when reporting solid precipitation. They are:
1. Snowfall [SF] - Measure the snowfall (snow, sleet, snow pellets) since the previous snowfall observation and,
2. Snow Depth [SD] - determine the depth of all snow on the ground (old and new snowfall)
1. SNOWFALL - Measure the greatest amount of snowfall that has accumulated on your snow board since the previous snowfall observation. (in inches and tenths, for example, 3.9 inches)
If you are not available to watch the snow accumulate at all times of the day and night, use your best estimate, based on a measurement of snowfall at the scheduled time of observation along with knowledge of what took place during the past 12 hours. If you are not present to witness the greatest snow accumulation, input may be obtained from other people who were near the measuring site during the snow event. Remember, you want to report the greatest accumulation since the last observation.
Snow often melts as it lands. If snow continually melts as it lands, and the accumulation never reaches 0.1 inches on your measuring surface, snowfall should be recorded as a trace (T).
It is essential to measure snowfall (and snow depth) in locations where the effects of blowing and drifting are minimized. Finding a good location where snow accumulates uniformly simplifies all other aspects of the observation and reduces the numerous opportunities for error. In open areas where windblown snow cannot be avoided, several measurements may often be necessary to obtain an average depth and they should not include the largest drifts. In heavily forested locations, try and find an exposed clearing in the trees. Measurements beneath trees are inaccurate since large amounts of snow can accumulate on trees and never reach the ground.
NOTE: Make sure that you clear the snowfall board no more than once every 6 hours.
2. SNOW DEPTH - Determine the total depth of snow, sleet, or ice on the ground. (in whole inches, i.e. 2)
This observation is taken by measuring the total depth of snow on exposed ground at a permanently-mounted snow stake or by taking the average of several depth readings at or near the normal point of observation with a measuring stick. When using a measuring stick, make sure the stick is pushed vertically into the snow until the bottom of the stick rests on the ground OR ON A SNOW BOARD THAT IS DESIGNATED FOR SNOW DEPTH MEASUREMENT ONLY. Do not mistake an ice layer or crusted snow as ground. The measurement should reflect the average depth of snow, sleet, and glaze ice on the ground at your usual measurement site (not disturbed by human activities). Measurements from rooftops, paved areas, and the like should not be made.
Report snow depth to the nearest whole inch, rounding up when one-half inch increments are reached (example 0.4 inches gets reported as a trace (T), 3.5 inches gets reported as 4 inches).
You should use good judgment to visually average and then measure snow depths in exposed areas within several hundred yards surrounding your site. For example, if half the exposed ground is bare and half is covered with six inches of snow, the snow depth should be entered as the average of the two readings, or three inches. When in your judgment, less than 50 percent of the exposed ground is covered by snow, even though the covered areas have a significant depth, the snow depth should be recorded as a trace (T). When no snow or ice is on the ground in exposed areas (snow may be present in surrounding forested or otherwise protected areas), record a “0”.
When strong winds have blown the snow, take several measurements where the snow was least affected by drifting and average them. If most exposed areas are either blown free of snow while others have drifts, again try to combine visual averaging with measurements to make your estimate.
Remember – if you just see a few flurries, then report a “t” for a trace
USE OF A SNOW BOARD
The use of a snow board helps in the measuring of new snowfall. A snow board is laid on top of the old snow when there is any possibility of new snow falling. It may be made of thin lumber or other light material (i.e., Styrofoam) that will not sink into the old snow, yet be heavy enough not to blow away. It should be painted white. Push the snow board into the old snow just far enough that the top of the board is level with the top of the snow pack. The recommended size is 16 inches by 16 inches. The use of a marker, such as a thin pole stuck into the ground, is suggested to mark the location of the snow board in case of a heavy snow fall.
After each observation, the board should be cleared. In high winds, the effectiveness of a snow board as a measuring aid is limited. In this case, use your best judgment as to the amount of new snowfall to be reported.
Winter Weather Pictures
Pictures may be used on our web pages or in educational outreach programs.
Dennis Persyk, Hampshire, IL
Mike Broscio, Prospect Heights, IL
Margo McIntyre, Morris, ILReturn to News Archive