Do You Remember... Chicago's March '17 Heavy Lake Effect?

Posted: February 28, 2018, 12:48 pm by nwiles

The 2016 winter season started on point in Chicago after what was an above average snowfall for the month of December. At no point after Christmas Day, however, did Chicago have one inch of snow on the ground as the Windy City turned silent for January and February of 2017. That would soon change in mid-March as a winter storm rolled into the Midwest.

Light snow fell from the night sky late on March 12th as the storm tracked just south of the city and pushed east into the Ohio River Valley on the 13th. A blanket of 2-4” of much needed snowfall fell across northern Illinois that morning before it sent nearly an inch of snow into central Indiana and Ohio later that day. This however, was only just the beginning as winds churned out of the northeast over Lake Michigan behind the system, and the lake-effect machines got going.

The next round of snow rolled into eastern Illinois and northwest Indiana by nightfall and quickly intensified as heavy bursts of lake-effect snow covered city streets and vacant sidewalks. Whiteout conditions crippled commuters on the morning of the 14th as roadways frequently re-covered under intense bands of heavy snow. By mid-morning, over 900 flights had been canceled at O’Hare International Airport and multiple roadway accidents were reported.


Image courtesy of National Weather Service Chicago


It would take a high pressure system that built in during the afternoon to finally end the snow as winds shifted northwest, sending snow away from Chicago and into northeast Indiana and western Michigan. When all was said and done, Chicago had sprung from its recent drought and had been buried under nearly a foot of total snowfall from the active stretch of weather.

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