Five inches of snow may fall in Chicago as a winter storm joins a blast of cold air that will send temperatures tumbling across the central and eastern U.S.
Snow will begin falling later today in Chicago and continue overnight, the National Weather Service said. Temperatures will also drop throughout the region, and when coupled with gusting winds it will make conditions feel even colder.
“Frostbite can occur in a matter of minutes under these conditions,” the weather service said in an advisory. “Untreated roads will become snow-covered, resulting in difficult travel.”
Winter storm warnings and advisories stretch from the Pacific Northwest to Ohio. Temperatures may drop 15 to 25 degrees Fahrenheit (8 to 14 Celsius) below normal from the northern Great Plains to the Ohio Valley, according to an outlook by Paul Ziegenfelder, a forecaster at the U.S. Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.
Chicago may reach a low of 9 degrees tonight and zero tomorrow, the weather service said. The normal average temperature in the city for this day is about 24 degrees, said MDA Weather Services in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn directed state agencies to prepare more than 1,700 trucks and thousands of employees to combat ice and snow expected to accumulate overnight. The state opened more than 100 shelters, the governor’s office said in an e-mailed statement.
The snow and cold may also cause some trouble for air traffic. As of 6:28 p.m. East Coast time, 173 flights had been canceled to or from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, according to FlightAware, a Houston-based tracking company.
Falling temperatures are also forecast for the east. Readings may drop to 19 degrees tonight in New York’s Central Park and then reach a low of 8 on Jan. 7, the weather service said.
Boston may see zero the same day, and lows may be 14 in Washington and 10 in Philadelphia.
The temperatures will probably boost demand for natural gas to heat homes and businesses, said Matt Rogers, president of the Commodity Weather Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland. Cold may linger through Jan. 14 through the central U.S., although not as intense. Natural gas futures sank 12.1 percent on the New York Mercantile Exchange on speculation the weather will turn milder after that.
“Our overall forecast has bigger demand gains today due to a combination of colder weather this week and the longer duration of colder conditions going deeper” into the 6- to 10- day outlook, Rogers said.