CHICAGO — Another storm dealt yet another wintery blast to the snow-weary Midwest and a blizzard warning was issued in upstate New York on Wednesday after a day or so of spring-like temperatures teased the region.
Forecasters warned that the storm would drop heavy, wet snow in the Chicago area and northern Indiana, along the Great Lakes in Ohio, Pennsylvania and into upstate New York before dissipating over Canada.
Before dawn, that forecast was coming true in Chicago, where early commuters carefully made their way to work.
"The roads were just horrible, it was pretty hazardous conditions out there," said Stephen Rodriguez, National Weather Service meteorologist in Romeoville, Ill. He said an initial forecast for 8 inches of snow in the city was perhaps overblown but that Chicagoans should prepare for up to 6 inches.
"The impact for the morning commute will probably be pretty significant in some places," Rodriguez said.
The agency said 5.2 inches of snow was reported near Midway Airport in the southwest of the city.
Forecasters warn that as much as 9 inches of snow could fall in parts of southeastern Michigan, with 4 to 8 inches in Detroit. Before the sun rose Wednesday, snow and sleet were making roads slippery across a large southern swath of the state. Hundreds of schools closed their doors for the day.
The picture was similar in upstate New York, where hundreds of schools called off classes after the weather service warned that a blizzard with winds up to 50 mph could paralyze the area from western New York to the Adirondacks.
Chicago has already been buried by 75.5 inches of snow this winter — fourth most on record dating back to 1884-1885, according to the weather service. The snowfall expected into Wednesday could push the seasonal total into third place, ahead of the 77.0 inch total from 1969-1970. Southeastern Michigan could come close to breaking a 133-year-old snowfall record. The storm will likely move the Detroit area close to the seasonal snow total of 93.6 inches set in 1880-1881, according to the weather service.
Rainy Indianapolis experienced a swift temperature drop of about 30 degrees, from 68 late Tuesday afternoon to 37 early Wednesday. In Missouri, temperatures that peaked in the high 70s and in St. Louis as high as 83 degrees on Tuesday were replaced with high winds and temperatures in the low 30s Wednesday morning.
In Chicago, a not-so-dramatic shift in temperatures but a shift nonetheless from above 50 Tuesday to the teens the next day, caused some confusion.
"I had a guy in here yesterday asking for salt and right after him a guy wanted mulch. Only in Chicago," Richard Schauer, owner of Schauer's Hardware in Forest Park, said Tuesday.
He did say there are still a few shovels, though the selection is pretty thin.
Jeff Gatewood, who owns Allisonville Nursery in the Indianapolis suburb of Fishers, said the months of snow and cold cut down on winter customers, but in recent weeks many visitors confided that their yearning for spring drove them to stop by the business and take in its house plants and cheery garden items.
"Everybody's got so much pent-up energy, it's going to make for a crazy spring," Gatewood said. "Spring fever is really going to be pretty high this year.
"And we all know the weather's going to hiccup and do this a few times before it straightens out."