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Chicago braces for season's first snowstorm

Chicago is preparing for its first snowstorm of the season. The city and suburbs are expected to get four to eight inches of snow beginning Thursday morning. Accumulation is expected to taper off Friday morning.

Andrew Krein is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. He said to brace for the worst of the storm Thursday afternoon.

"It's when the heaviest snow is expected to fall that's also when the wind is going to be the strongest. So this afternoon's rush hours - it's gonna be a mess," Krein said.

Wind gusts could reach up to 35 mph and temperatures will be falling throughout Thursday getting into the 20s in the evening. But it'll get colder overnight. Krein said Friday morning will be in the teens and the wind chill will make it feel close to zero. The weekend's high temperatures are expected to be in the 20s with light snow potential on Saturday.

The city and related agencies are preparing to handle the snow. This past fall two turnaround spots were installed on Lake Shore Drive - one at Schiller, the other at Armitage, to prevent motorists from getting stranded like they during last February's "snowmageddon." The Office of Emergency Management said it has coordinated plans to close off other major arterial streets and divert traffic, if needed.

Also new this year is Chicagoans can sign up to lend a hand to the elderly and others in need of snow removal. There's also an adopt-a-sidewalk feature where people can claim a stretch of sidewalk and make it their responsibility to keep it clear and safe. Another feature is a real-time snow plow tracker that can be used to track the progress of streets getting cleared.

The Illinois Department of Transportation said it has prepped all its emergency equipment. It says IDOT has more than 400,000 tons of salt, 3,600 employees and 1,700 pieces of equipment prepared for deployment to cover over 43,000 lane miles statewide. IDOT is encouraging motorists to drive cautiously and give plenty of room to snow plows. If you do get in car trouble on the road, IDOT said to pull over to a shoulder if possible and then call  *999 and help will be on the way. 

Commonwealth Edison said it has updated storm response procedures and has some new technical capabilities. ComEd is offering a text messaging system in which you can report an outage via text and ComEd will text restoration info back to you. To report an outage customers can text the word OUT to 26633 (C-O-M-E-D on a touchtone phone).

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