Motorists slipped and slid on hazardous roadways, hundreds of flights were canceled at two major Chicago airports, and thousands of people were without power Saturday as the season's first major snow storm pelted the suburbs.
A mixture of ice, snow and sleet caused vehicles to skid into ditches, minor fender benders and other accidents throughout the region. Several people were taken to area hospitals for minor injuries. The damage was less than feared, authorities said.
A family of six was taken to Central DuPage Hospital after their van rolled over on Roosevelt Road west of Prince Crossing in West Chicago. Their injuries were not life threatening, officials said.
Traffic was backed up throughout northern Fox Valley and contributed to a head-on collision in Burlington that sent three people to area hospitals, according to area police and fire departments.
The female driver of a sport utility vehicle and the male driver of a van had to be extricated from their vehicles and taken to local hospitals with serious leg injuries Saturday afternoon after they collided because of slick conditions, Burlington firefighters said.
Two cars collided Saturday afternoon on icy Randall Road in North Aurora near the intersection of Orchard and Mooseheart roads, sending two people to a local hospital. The collision occurred just as salt trucks began to emerge, officials said.
Emergency crews freed one of the two injured people from the wreckage. Both were taken to Provena Mercy Medical Center in Aurora. One was in serious condition and the other in fair condition, said Todd Zies, a bureau chief with the North Aurora Fire Department.
In Gurnee, downed live power lines forced police to shut down Milwaukee Avenue between Grand Avenue and Washington Street until ComEd crews could fix the problem.
Interstate 90 express lanes were shut down early Saturday evening because the gates were frozen.
The blustery weather was expected to worsen through Saturday as the storm system pushed through the state, said National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Gitro.
"We have a second round coming," Gitro said. "We expect continued sleet and freezing rain."
Meteorologists issued winter storm and ice warnings in Illinois, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, the eastern Dakotas and northern Michigan. The storm system was expected to dump more than a foot of snow in some portions of the Midwest. Accumulations of up to several inches of snow were expected in some areas of Illinois.
Freezing rain coated highways with ice throughout the state, causing spinouts and accidents, weather officials said. About a quarter inch of ice was reported in areas of central Illinois, said NWS meteorologist Dan Kelly.
More than 400 flights were canceled at O'Hare International Airport and 28 were canceled at Midway Airport, said Karen Pride, a spokeswoman for Chicago's Department of Aviation.
Flights at O'Hare were delayed 40 to 60 minutes late Saturday afternoon, but times were expected to increase, officials said.
"Passengers should anticipate delays and certainly call ahead to their airlines," Pride said.
Fewer than 25 ComEd customers in northern Illinois reported power outages Saturday afternoon, said ComEd spokesman Joe Trost.
Ice coated highways made for treacherous driving conditions across Illinois on Saturday, said Illinois Department of Transportation spokesman Mike Claffey.
He reported spinouts and jackknifed semi trucks along Interstate 55 between Springfield and Joliet and on Interstate 80 west of Joliet.
Claffey said IDOT crews were clearing and salting highways, concentrating on trouble spots.
"We are advising people not to drive in these conditions unless you really have to," Claffey said. "Travel is really slow on many roads. If you're driving, you really need to slow down and make sure you're buckled up."