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Posted at 10:15 AM ET, 02/ 2/2011

Blizzard ends in Chicago

By Jason Samenow

Snow totals reach historic levels

3:30 p.m.: National Weather Service is indicating the snow total was 20.2" at noon central. It's possible the final number will be a little higher, but unlikely to move to #2 on the list (21.6" from Jan. 1-3 1999).

2:00 p.m. Looks like the snow has ended in Chicago. Still awaiting a final total.

12:25 p.m.: Some lake-enhanced snow bands continue to slam Chicago. Storm chaser Reed Timmer reports "This is the most incredible snow event I've ever seen in Chicago. That lake effect band is INCREDIBLE.. highest snowfall rates so far." Chicago Weather Center has a great photo gallery of the storm.

11:45 a.m. update (10:45 central time): Chicago now has 20.2" of snow as of 11:30 a.m. - so storm is still the third biggest on record. Snow is almost over so it may not reach #2 or #1. Chicago Weather Center reports drifts to 12 feet!

From 10:15 a.m.: Snow continues to fall heavily around Chicago with wind gusts to around 30 mph, and visibility of a quarter mile or less. Chicago O'Hare has received 19.5 inches of snow through 9 a.m. central time according to official National Weather Service reports. Three to five more inches are possible today.

This is now the 3rd heaviest snowstorm all-time in #Chicago: 19.5" officially at O'Hare. Only 1999 and 1967 were snowier! #blizzardless than a minute ago via TweetDeck

If just 3.5 more inches fall, this Groundhog Day blizzard will become the biggest one-day snowfall in Chicago history. But radar does show the back edge of the storm nearby.

Watch the excitable Jim Cantore of the Weather Channel go into a frenzy after witnessing an incredible episode of thundersnow last night. This video is worth waiting through the obligatory advertisement.

By Jason Samenow  | February 2, 2011; 10:15 AM ET
Categories:  Latest, U.S. Weather  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Forecast: Morning rain, midday warmth
Next: Cooling off the heated climate change rhetoric


Glad you posted that video, Jason. I saw it on air last night, very impressive. Chicago has a habit of receiving lake effect snowbands long after surface lows have departed to the east, so there is hope that they will break their all time record. I have no idea how the heck they measured the snow though, given the winds last night of 50-70 mph.

Posted by: afreedma | February 2, 2011 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Jim Cantore is one of my favorite TV personalities of all time. I can't stop laughing here at my desk watching that over and over again.

I wonder if he had the same reaction here in DC last week... he was downtown doing live broadcasts for our thundersnow event.

Posted by: JoeThePhotographer | February 2, 2011 10:42 AM | Report abuse

I'm happy that all that snow is dumping there rather than here.

Posted by: IvantheTerrible | February 2, 2011 10:55 AM | Report abuse

He is a lively thing....of course if a weatherperson can't get a little hyped up about T-snow then you might want to check 'em for a pulse.

Posted by: FIREDRAGON47 | February 2, 2011 11:00 AM | Report abuse


That is so last week.

Posted by: ennepe68 | February 2, 2011 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Jason, why are we suddenly seeing thundersnow? What causes it? I thought the thundersnow here last week it might have been because the temperature was close to freezing, but it was bitterly cold in Chicago, so that's not it...

Posted by: sw74 | February 2, 2011 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Gang, I know Jim well enough to say that he genuinely loves the weather aspect of his job, and is 100% a guy's guy. I once heard that about Cal Ripken - that the guys wanted to hang with him because he was actually really cool - not because he was Cal and famous. The whole goggles routine isnt schtick at all...he refuses to blink in the eye of nasty weather, and simply likes to be able to see.

Posted by: DullesARC | February 2, 2011 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Jim got me through two hurricanes (about six-weeks apart) in Pensacola, FL. I’ve always been a fan.

I think someone posted earlier this week that, “if Jim Cantore is in your area, then it must be serious!” LOL! Go Jim! :o)

Posted by: ThinkWarm | February 2, 2011 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Thundersnow? Meh, we had thundersleet.

Posted by: rwalker66 | February 2, 2011 12:10 PM | Report abuse

That photo gallery shows tons of cars and buses abandoned on Lake Shore Drive, and some shots of fire department rescues of stranded motorists and passengers. Their blizzard was a lot less of a surprise to them than our storm was to us last week; why were so many people still trying to get home?

Posted by: mmurphy70 | February 2, 2011 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Wow, that would be absolutely fantastic if it happened here. We wouldn't be able to go anywhere for at least a week, maybe two, while they tried to get that cleaned up and cleared out. And of course, power would be out for hundreds of thousands of people all trapped in their homes for the same amount of time, so they could just stare out their windows at the beautiful SNOW as they slowly froze in their homes. 12 foot high snow drifts is about half the height of the first story of a house - that must be amazing! We are really unlucky to have missed out on all this picturesque gorgeous snow!

Posted by: nocando | February 2, 2011 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Two thundersnow events in as many weeks...not that rare any more, especially when you are dealing with deep intense low pressure systems. NWS are you listening?

Posted by: Bombo47jea | February 2, 2011 12:56 PM | Report abuse

sw74, While they are much colder than we are the basic pattern aloft is not that much different than during our thundersnow. Both cases has very strong 500mb lows pass just to the south. Both were associated with strong frontogenesis (the temperature lines were getting squeezed together). The chicago thunder could be from slantwise like we had during our thundersnow but you also can't rule out convective instability as the lapse rate in the lowest 5000 feet of the atmosphere was dry adiabatic but the sounding was saturated making that layer unstable with any lifting at all. Whenever you have a really strong 500h circulation and a really intense surface low and have really strong upward motion, you have the potential to get thundersnow. The Chicago storm had an even stronger upper low and storm than we had.

Posted by: wjunker | February 2, 2011 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Big deal.............The snowstorm is just about the same as the one in 1967 that I lived through in Kalamazoo. It shut down O'Hare for three days, the wind blew so hard and the snow was packed so hard (ah yes the famous Lake effect) that we had to chop it into blocks with the side of the snow scoop before we could pick it up and move it. I had 4 small children to care for and a husband who was on a business trip, stranded in Indiana. I was grateful that the power did not go out.

When the storm was over and before the plowing started in earnest, I remember the absolutely dead traffic noise, no sirens, nothing!! A neighbor and I dragged two toboggans to the grocery store and got supplies for ourselves and other people in the neighborhood who couldn't do for themselves. We also brought back gas for snow-blowers. Made me laugh out loud to hear that the National Guard had been called out for this storm. I have yet to hear why.............anyone?

Posted by: OregonStorm | February 2, 2011 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Dude! Jim Cantore loves his weather! It's great to see he can still be surprised and excited after a just a few years of reporting.

@Oregon, the NG probably just got called out because with a metropolitan area of ~7 million people, they want to have extra resources on hand to deal with emergencies. It's also quite possible that there may be places where ambulances can't go yet but large-wheeled, large-engined trucks can.

@nocando, I have full blizzard envy myself. Chicago will be back up and running in a day or so, and at least the folks out there I know are enjoying the snow fall while it lasts. I love that city!

Posted by: kickabout | February 2, 2011 1:15 PM | Report abuse

CGW, thanks a million for your help on Monday when you accurately predicted that a DC - NYC flight at 4 pm yesterday would fall between the two precipitation waves - you were exactly right and the plane got out fine. Thanks so much both for your responsiveness and accuracy.

Posted by: jkb551 | February 2, 2011 1:17 PM | Report abuse

@ Oregon, I was wrong. According to the Trib:
"Gov. Pat Quinn this morning activated several hundred more National Guard troops to help Illinois State Police rescue drivers stranded on interstates across Illinois.

The move brings the total number of troops helping with snow rescue to around 700. Quinn stationed roughly 500 troops at rest stops across Illinois yesterday, but all are now patrolling roadways looking for motorists who may have spun out or got caught in snow drifts, officials said.

Troops will use Humvees and all-terrain vehicles to help emergency personnel reach those who are stranded. Many troops will be shifted from southern parts of the state to more heavily impacted areas up north."

Posted by: kickabout | February 2, 2011 1:36 PM | Report abuse

The beast is leaving:

Posted by: Yellowboy | February 2, 2011 3:08 PM | Report abuse

The latest on the US blizzards and the Australian Cyclone, and a look at the weird weather around the world:

Posted by: TheAP | February 2, 2011 3:46 PM | Report abuse

you're right. anymore peeps expect it handed to them and have no common sense. in 67 we did for ourselves and neighbors. many stayed at work overnight. actually days. remember the stores downtown opening to shelter workers stuck in the loop.
who made the comment about chicago and lake snow? it isn't that regular an occurrence as the low has to line up just right to blow down the lake from the NE to hit the city. on the other hand, NW IN and SW MI are hit regularly.
would've liked to see cantore out on the 95th street break water or skyway bridge 36 hrs ago. that would've been some rush.

Posted by: shadow_is_lost | February 3, 2011 10:25 AM | Report abuse

More extreme weather to come! Read all about how you can help!

"That carbon we've poured into the air traps more of the sun's heat near the planet. And that extra energy expresses itself in a thousand ways, from melting ice to powering storms. Since warm air can hold more water vapor than cold, it's not surprising that the atmosphere is 4% moister than it was 40 years ago. That "4% extra amount, it invigorates the storms, it provides plenty of moisture for these storms," said Kevin Trenberth, head of the climate analysis section at the government's National Center for Atmospheric Research. It loads the dice for record rain and snow. Yesterday the Midwest and Queensland crapped out."

Posted by: thebobbob | February 3, 2011 4:05 PM | Report abuse

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