As punishing weather goes, this winter the Stateline has gotten away with nothing more than a few slaps on the wrist. Mother Nature is in the process of doling out a much more harsh punishment, though, with some of the worst weather of the winter expected to continue into Valentine's Day.
Light snow got underway late Wednesday Afternoon, and has continued with little interruption through late Wednesday Evening. Initial accumulations have been on the minor side to this point, generally around an inch in many areas. Road conditions Wednesday Evening remained quite decent, thanks to the very light nature of the snow as well as the milder temperatures still in place. With air and road temperatures in the 30s, salt and other chemicals are very efficient in battling the snow.
Travel conditions will deteriorate shortly, though, as snow continues to fall. While we may only see another inch or two overnight, the bigger story will be the temperature crash which is just hours away, and the effect it will have on our roadways. Temperatures are likely to fall quickly into the 20s, and eventually the teens early Thursday Morning. With snow continuing to fall, and untreated wet roads rapidly freezing over, expect slick travel conditions to become much more widespread after 2:00am.
Furthermore, as the temperatures fall, the snow that continues to come down will become increasingly light and fluffy. That transition, combined with increasingly gusty northerly winds will lend itself to blowing and drifting snow concerns, especially on east/west oriented roads.
While this storm system will hardly be a prolific snowfall producer, its impacts will be felt far beyond what the ruler may measure. Travel may be an issue well into the morning in many spots. We'll most certainly not pick up enough snow to prompt any school closings, however, if enough blowing and drifting takes place, especially in more rural areas, a few delays aren't to be entirely ruled out.
Once the snow moves out, our full attention shifts to the coldest air of the season arriving during the day Thursday. Our 15° forecast high temperature is to occur early Thursday Morning, with temperatures slowly falling throughout the day, and wind chills plummeting quickly below zero.
As skies clear Thursday Night, the temperature downturn will accelerate. We'll ultimately see our temperature drop to -10° in Rockford, with even colder amounts likely in areas to our west. A -10° reading would rather comfortably set a new record for Valentine's Day. The previous record of -8° was set on the morning of February 14, 1916.
Wind chill values Friday Morning may drop to as low as -20° or -25°. That's often around the magic number school districts look for when deciding upon whether or not to delay or cancel school for the day. While I think it's highly unlikely districts cancel Friday, due to the fact we will warm up rather quickly during the day, I do think it's at least a reasonable possibility that some at least delay for a few hours in the morning.
Temperatures fall back into the single digits Friday Evening, but a southwesterly wind developing overnight will allow temperatures to rise into the 20s by Saturday Morning. We'll thaw out nicely and reach well into the 30s by Saturday Afternoon.