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Freezing Rain, Snowy Mix to Blast Chicago

By  Emily Morris and Darryl Holliday | February 7, 2013 7:32am 

 A woman walks in front of the "L" on Wacker Drive during a winter snowstorm.
A woman walks in front of the "L" on Wacker Drive during a winter snowstorm.
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DNAinfo/Tom Liddy

CHICAGO — Brace youselves for a freezing, rainy commute.

Precipitation predicted for the early morning and midday Thursday could cause trouble for drivers as freezing rain descends on some of the city, experts said.

Meteorologists thought the icy precipitation might spare Chicago and instead hit the northern suburbs, but the cold rain was plaguing drivers early Thursday morning.

"What happened was we had a thick cloud that rolled in late last night that acted as a blanket that kept temperatures from cooling off," National Weather Service meteorologist David Beachler told DNAinfo.com Chicago.

But as precipitation developed early this morning, the temperatures cooled down and freezing rain began to fall on some of the city and suburbs.

"The bigger concern is the freezing rain…that is the most immediate impact, and that can be very problematic for untreated areas," Beachler said, referring to roads that haven't been salted.

The weather service is predicting icy accumulation of less than a tenth of an inch.

Beachler said that icy drizzle is expected to affect the morning commute until about 9 or 10 a.m., when temperatures are supposed to warm to the mid-30s and preciptation could transition to rain.

In the afternoon, that rain might change to a mix of rain and snow, depending on how strong the weather system hits the area, Beachler said. Less than an inch of snow accumulation is expected.

But Chicago's transportation departments came prepared.

The city has had 199 trucks out salting the main streets since 4 a.m., Department of Streets and Sanitation spokeswoman Anne Sheahan said.

"We're encouraging resdients to drive slowly and take extra time as needed for the morning commute," Sheahan said, adding that it's mostly just rain affecting drivers in the city this morning. 

Clean-up crews were similarly preparing for whatever the weather brings, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation.

"We're used to the weather here," said Greg Cunningham, spokesman for the Department of Aviation. "Generally, we'll have equipment ready to clear runways and ice if needed, depending on the weather.

"As we like to say, before the first snowflake even hits the ground, we’ll have our equipment and our crew ready."