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Snow in Chicago
Photograph: Zach Long

A big winter storm could bring up to a foot of snow to Chicago

Get out your shovel, because you'll likely be clearing off your sidewalk later this week.

Zach Long
Written by
Zach Long
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If you were on social media or watched the news yesterday, you probably heard about projections of up to 20 inches of snow headed to Chicago. Thankfully, the National Weather Service was quick to note that 20 inches of snowfall is pretty unlikely—but Chicago is definitely in the path of a major winter storm that will bring some fresh powder to the city's already slushy streets.

Chicago is in for two rounds of snow, with the first arriving tonight (Tuesday, February 1) around 8pm. The NWS is projecting snow rates of up to 1 inch per hour between 3am and noon on Wednesday, February 2, though there's a higher likelihood of up to a foot of snowfall on Chicago's South Side. The forecast calls for the snow to taper off at some point during the day on Wednesday... but that won't be the end of this winter storm.

Around midnight on Wednesday, another storm will begin dropping snow on Chicago, though the forecast suggests much lower snowfall totals than the first. Again, the South Side of the city is likely to see more snow (2–4 inches) while the North and West Sides will likely see fewer flakes (1–2 inches). Expect the snow to stop falling sometime during the afternoon on Thursday, February 3.

Of course, these are just the latest forecasts from the NWS, which will release an updated forecast this afternoon. If you've lived in Chicago long enough, you know that inflated snow forecasts are a fact of life—Mother Nature doesn't always deliver the exact amount snow that meteorologists project. And sometimes, the blizzard watches are entirely accurate, like when hundreds of cars got stranded on Lake Shore Drive in February 2011 when a powerful storm (dubbed "Snowmageddon") dropped more than 20 inches of snow on the city.

In the case of tonight's storm, keep your shovel and salt handy, expect to see some neighbors practicing "dibs" and be prepared for a slow Wednesday morning commute. Chicago is under a winter storm warning from 8pm this evening until 6pm on Wednesday. 

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