Chicago/ Weather & Environment
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Published on February 26, 2024
Chicago Grapples with Wild Weather Shifts From Sunny Skies to Snow Showers and Severe StormsSource: X/NWS Chicago

Chicagoans are bracing for a bout of unpredictable weather, with the National Weather Service issuing a series of alerts that suggest the Windy City is in for everything from sunny skies and record warmth to thunderstorms and potential hail - even the threat of snow showers. Monday brought a sunny high near 68 degrees, but change is swiftly on the horizon, with forecasts predicting a severe drop to lows around 27 by Wednesday night, and a hazardous mix of rain and snow.

A Hazardous Weather Outlook released early Monday warns of a "Limited Thunderstorm Risk" that brings a hail threat "up to 1 inch in diameter," while also highlighting a "Significant Fire Weather Risk." These tumultuous conditions are expected to peak on Tuesday when Illinois could see severe thunderstorms, particularly late in the afternoon and evening. Authorities are advising caution given the chance to "rapidly spread" brushfires in the dry and windy conditions.

On Tuesday itself, residents can expect "a high near 73" though it's paired with a 40% chance of precipitation, threatening showers, and thunderstorms after 3:00 p.m., according to the National Weather Service. Come Tuesday night, the "rain showers likely before 3:00 a.m." shift to include snow showers, with "some thunder also possible," upending the mid-70s temperatures with a steep plummet.

The wind poses its challenge, with the forecast indicating an "Elevated Non-Thunderstorm Wind Risk" for Wednesday. This comes after a tweet from NWS Chicago labeled today's conditions as creating a "High Fire Danger" in the region, exacerbated by the strong winds and extreme warmth. And, as Chicago faces these dramatic shifts, a "power-house cold front" is expected "to come ripping across the area" Tuesday night, signaling not only the end of the record warmth but also the potential for treacherous commutes Wednesday morning.

Boaters on Lake Michigan are also on alert, with conditions for small craft labeled hazardous through most of the week. The National Weather Service's advisory extends a cautious hand to mariners, who might be facing not just dangerous waters but also the limited risk of thunderstorms and hail.

As Chicago navigates through this meteorological rollercoaster, residents are advised to stay tuned to updates and prepare for each twist and turn of this tumultuous weather pattern.