The Snowpocalypse Tsunami? Blizzard Could Send 18-Foot Waves Into Downtown Chicago Tonight

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Meteorologists fear a blizzard will send 18-foot waves over the shores of Lake Michigan.

Tonight’s massive impending snowfall is no surprise – it’s been forecast for the past week. But as the storm swirls closer to Chicago, the headlines just keep getting worse.

The crushing clipper is expected to sweep through the Chicago area beginning 3 p.m. Tuesday and will linger until Wednesday afternoon. It’s been called a blizzard of “epic” proportions, a “potentially life-threatening” system featuring thundersnow, multiple feet of accumulation, and gale-force winds. And now, tack on the potential for waves cresting over the shores of Lake Michigan, threatening homes and roads.

(More on TIME.com: See photos of snowstorms hitting the east coast – again.)

The National Weather Service has issued a “Lakeshore Flood Warning”, stating that “strong winds will likely result in waves building to 14 to 18 feet,” which could cause flooding on Chicago’s streets. One of the city’s main downtown arteries, Lake Shore Drive, runs – you guessed it – right along the lakeshore and could face a washout of water and ice.

Add that to 60 mph winds, lightning, and a predicted accumulation of 2 to 3 inches per hour, according to meteorologist Richard Castro, and it’s no surprise, then, that the NWS is deeming the storm “dangerous, multifaceted and life-threatening.” Illinois Governor Pat Quinn issued a statewide disaster declaration Monday so cities and towns could prepare for the impending mess of at least a foot of snow across the Chicagoland area, with as much as 18 inches expected along the lakefront.

(More on TIME.com: See video of Obama’s Chicago roots.)

Chicagoans are accustomed to disappointment in the weather department, with panic over dangerous storms often giving way to tame systems. It could be that fabled lake effect or just overhype – but the Chicago Tribune casts off the naysayers this time, saying the impending blizzard (yes, it’s already being called a blizzard) “appears anything but gentle.”

And New Yorkers, who’ve faced nearly 5 feet of snow this winter, can commiserate – until the same system rolls eastward for a messy Wednesday morning in the Big Apple. (via Chicago Sun-Times)

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