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Chicago gets first measurable snow of the winter; snow showers possible on New Year’s Eve

The last measurable snow to fall in Chicago was on March 15, when 1.8 inches were recorded at O’Hare International Airport. The average first day for measurable snow in Chicago is around Nov. 18.

Karen Tekiela, a 14-year veteran with the U.S. Postal Service, delivers mail along West Glenlake Avenue in Edgewater.
Karen Tekiela, a 14-year veteran with the U.S. Postal Service, delivers mail along West Glenlake Avenue in Edgewater.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

It finally came — the Chicago area’s first measurable snowfall of the winter hit Tuesday, with 1.5 inches of snow reported at O’Hare International Airport.

The last measurable snow to fall in Chicago was on March 15, when 1.8 inches were recorded at O’Hare International Airport. The average first day for measurable snow in Chicago is around Nov. 18.

The previous date for the latest measurable snow in Chicago was Dec. 20, 2012, the National Weather Service said. While some areas have seen trace amounts of snow, measurable snow is defined by at least a tenth of an inch on the ground.

Wet snow accumulations upwards of 3 inches were reported north of Interstate 80 toward Aurora and 2 inches were reported in Rockford by 5:45 p.m. Midway Airport reported 1.6 inches of snow, and the lakefront had under 0.5 inches by 7:45 p.m., according to the weather service.

The next chance for measurable snow was late Wednesday afternoon into Wednesday evening, lingering into early Thursday morning across the metro area. A tenth to a half inch was expected to fall.

There was a 50 percent chance of snow showers late New Year’s Eve, and a 70 percent chance for snow on New Year’s Day.

The weather service couldn’t confirm whether the late snowfall was any indication of a less snowy winter season but said larger storm systems later in the season cause most of the snowfall. Meteorologists measure winter snowfall from Dec. 1 to March 1.

“It’s kind of hard to say because weather obviously changes quite rapidly now so we get bigger systems moving into the later part of the winter season and that can cause most of our snow to fall,” a meteorologist at the weather service said.

Last year’s winter was mostly snow-free, but a couple of weeks in February made up most of the season’s snowfall, according to statistics from the weather service.

A climate pattern in the Pacific Ocean may lead to more precipitation throughout the winter, according to the meteorologist.

“We are in what we call a La Niña pattern. Basically, waters in the tropical pacific are a little bit cooler than normal and usually that means we’re in store for a little bit more of a wetter winter.”