Chicago, IL

Lake-Effect Snow to Plow through Chicago Tomorrow, Shuttering Schools and Upending Schedules

L.D. Burnett

While residents of Texas all the way down to the Gulf Coast are coping with rolling power outages, icy roads, and packed snow due to a rare and dangerous cold front that has brought sub-freezing temperatures all the way to Corpus Christi, the City of Big Shoulders is managing the bitter cold and significant snowfall from this week’s storm as it usually does: by bundling up and forging ahead, shoveling snow, helping neighbors, and hunkering down with a soul-warming beverage of choice to do it all over again tomorrow.

But tomorrow will be different, as a possibly record-shattering snowfall is forcing last-minute changes to school schedules and commuter plans.

Heavy snow to continue

Almost a foot of snow fell yesterday at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, nearly eclipsing a record set in 2015. Temperatures in the Windy City reached a bone-grating 1 degree Fahrenheit by 10:30 pm last night. Today’s high is 17 degrees, and another round of fast-falling wet snow is expected to continue throughout the day tomorrow.

In the lively, booming Avondale neighborhood, icicles dangle from a garden wall display at a home west of Milwaukee Avenue, while a thick layer of heavy, wet still snow clings to the bare branches of the city trees. Traffic has been light, but grocery stores are open and neighborhood restaurants are operating for takeout.

Key food delivery services have drivers available in Avondale and throughout Chicago, though delivery times may be affected by road conditions. Check with UberEats, GrubHub, DoorDash, or your favorite delivery app for drivers in your area.

The National Weather Service warns today that lake effect snow, combined with the brutal cold front slicing down the central plains to the Gulf Coast, will continue to fall overnight and into tomorrow mornig, creating dangerous travel conditions for Chicago.

As of right now, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is offering “normal service” on its trains. As Chicagoans know, that doesn’t mean the same thing as “on time” or “on schedule. As always, check the CTA schedule for any updates.

Schools altering plans for Tuesday

Several Chicago-area school systems, colleges, and universities are altering or canceling their scheduled classes for Tuesday. Chicago Public Schools are moving all in-person instruction to online teaching tomorrow, including Pre-K classes.

This move comes at the end of a major conflict between Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) and the Chicago Teachers Union, the collective bargaining union representing over 25,000 teachers in the region.

The city and the CTU struggled to reach an agreement regarding plans for a Covid-safe school reopening. After a potential strike and a threatened lockout, both sides were able to reach a plan for moving forward. Mayor Lightfoot called the plan a “tentative agreement,” while the CTU referred to it simply as a “framework” for reopening plans.

Under the agreement, some Pre-K classes had begun meeting in person on campuses last Thursday, February 11. Teachers for other grades were scheduled to return on February 22. Now, a week later, school reopening is facing a pile of problems in the form of what is expected to be a massive lake-effect snowfall. Pre-K students will be back home once again, throwing caregivers’ newly settled schedules once again into disarray.

Meanwhile, many major school systems in the greater Chicago area are either cancelling all in-person classes or closing completely tomorrow. Check here for a full listing of area school closures, delays, and schedule changes, including information about major college and university systems in the area: DePaul University, Univeristy of Chicago, University of Illinois-Chicago, Northern Illinois University, and the Chicago Community College system.

What comes next?

Beyond Tuesday’s heavy snowfall, what lies ahead for the Chicago area? According to, there is another chance of snow on Thursday and area highs will stay in the low 20s until Saturday, February 20th. Next week will see a warming trend, with highs in the mid to upper 30s. There is a chance of widespread snowfall on Sunday, February 21.

In other words, just another winter week in the City of Big Shoulders.

Photo credit: R. H. Pryblo, February 15, 2021.

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I write about American culture, history, and politics; literature, philosophy, and social theory; writing strategies, tools, and environments; lifestyle and home trends. Essayist, magazine editor and publisher, historian of American thought and culture, professor, writing coach, caftan queen. Find me on Twitter @LDBurnett


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