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Snow, Sleet Batter the City

By Emily Morris | February 26, 2013 9:27am | Updated on February 26, 2013 6:28pm

CHICAGO — A mix of sleet and snow pounded the city Tuesday afternoon, and the onslaught could continue into the evening commute, forecasters said.

A winter weather advisory issued by the National Weather Service is in effect until 9 p.m. and warns of rain, wet snow and sleet at varying points in the day. The rainy mix is expected to transition to wet snow throughout the afternoon and evening.

In anticipation of the continued "inclement winter weather," Chicago Public Schools canceled all after-school sports and drivers education activities. Six state regional basketball games hosted by CPS high schools were also postponed, according to a statement.

Heavy snow in the early afternoon caused visibility issues on slick roads.

Plenty of drivers spun out and minor accidents occurred due to weather conditions, said Chris Asmar, a trooper with Illinois State Police District Chicago.

An Emergency Snow Plan was put into effect by Illinois State Police District Chicago Tuesday afternoon. State police are not taking accident reports for any crashes that only involve property damage, a spokesman said. Only crashes in which vehicles need to be towed or people are injured should be immediately reported.

Drivers involved in minor crashes should exchange driver, vehicle and insurance information and file the crash report at a later date, a spokesman for the agency said.

By 4:30 p.m., as the storm was underway, O'Hare had canceled more than 330 flights and Midway canceled more than 170. Delays at O'Hare were between 30 and 60 minutes, and 45 minutes or more at Midway, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation.

The city could see snow accumulations of 4 to 5 inches if temperatures stay just above freezing or colder, National Weather Service meteorologist David Beachler said.

Winds of about 35 mph could blow through the city in the afternoon and might drop to 25-30 mph in the evening, Beachler said. Freezing rain could also affect the city, he said.

Visibility could "more than likely" continue to affect drivers during the evening rush hour, Beachler said. The strongest impact is likely to be over by about 9 p.m.

"By the tail end of the evening rush hour, things are going to be improving," Beachler said, with some flurries possibly lingering into the night. 

The system was moving from southwestern states such as Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas and heading northeast, according to the weather service. Reuters reported the storm contributed to at least three deaths, two in Kansas and one in Oklahoma.

The storm comes during a particularly mild winter season that had a late start in Chicago. Many didn't see snow on Christmas, and snow measuring at least an inch wasn't recorded at O'Hare Airport, the official measuring point, until Jan. 25.

As of Tuesday, only 13.6 inches of snow has been measured for the season, more than a foot less than the normal accumulation the city receives by Feb. 25 — 27.6 inches.

Some flurries could fall again on Wednesday, though not much is expected to stick.