The National Weather Service in Chicago on Monday tweeted the news: Snowflakes were spotted at O’Hare, “so this will go down as officially the first snow of the 2022-2023 snow season for Chicago!”
While the agency included an exclamation point, not everyone was feeling the excitement. The tweet started a bit of a social media flurry, with replies like “yuck” and “nope.”
As it turns out, the flurries may have been a false start to winter weather. Instead of expecting more snow, Chicago is gearing up for a beautiful weekend — with temperatures expected to reach the 70s, which is more typical of September than late October, said NWS meteorologist Brett Borchardt.
“It’s just going to feel beautiful out there,” Borchardt said. “Certainly different than the past weekend.”
While this weekend may not be this year’s last nice days, history says they’re certainly numbered.
“We probably will squeak out another 70-degree day or two to close out the year … [but] a stretch of 70-degree days is going to become less likely with each week that goes by,” Borchardt said.
However, it’s not all bad news for people hoping fall will last a bit longer. Borchardt said Chicago is not expecting any more snow in the immediate future.
So when will it snow again? If history is any indication, it could be more than a month before there’s an amount of snow that would call for breaking out your “dibs” chair.
The flakes on Monday were in fact a bit premature, according to National Weather Service data. Normally, a trace amount of snow makes its first spooky appearance on Halloween — meaning this year was two weeks ahead of schedule and the earliest observed snowfall since 2014, according to NWS.
But it wasn’t the earliest on record — not by a long shot. Back in 1928 and 1942, there was a trace amount of snowfall on Sept. 25.
Most of the city didn’t even see snow on Monday, but the flurries still count as “trace snow” because flakes reached the ground. The dusting was not, however, the city’s first “measurable snow” of the season — that’s when 0.1 inches or more accumulates.
Normally, Chicago records measurable snowfall around Nov. 18. The earliest measurable snow on record was Oct. 12, 2006. The latest measurable snowfall recorded was just last year, when 0.1 inches of snow didn’t accumulate on the ground until Dec. 28.
However, real snow — as it would be defined by any true hardy Chicagoan — usually doesn’t show up until December. The city normally has its first storm amounting to an inch or more around Dec. 7. Although, it has happened as early as Oct. 19 (back in 1989) and as late as Jan. 25 (in 2013).
Regardless of when the snow starts stacking up, Chicagoans should gear up for a good number of storms this year, according to the annual winter outlook released Thursday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. While there’s no strong indication of what sort of temperatures Chicago will see this winter, the report does predict the city will see a wetter-than-average season.
“That doesn’t necessarily mean more snow, it could be more rain, more of that yucky mixed precipitation and snow,” Borchardt said. “But usually in these kinds of patterns we typically see more storms than normal.”
Even if the city gets a lot of storms this year, it would take a truly hefty amount of snow to break Chicago’s all-time snowiest winter record. The current champion is the winter of 1978-79, when 89.7 inches fell. For comparison, last winter it snowed 32.8 inches.
While we may not be quite in snowy season yet, here’s a quick historical reminder of just how long winter can last in Chicago once it really does begin: In 1924, it snowed on May 25 — the latest date flurries have been logged in the city.
Courtney Kueppers is a digital producer/reporter at WBEZ. Follow her @cmkueppers.