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Types of snow systems affecting Chicago area: Alberta Clipper, Panhandle Hook, Gulf Coast Storm, Lake Effect Snow (a Colorado Low is a less intense Panhandle Hook).
A Texas Panhandle Hook type of storm is setting up for next week — late Tuesday or Wednesday (Feb.2/Ground Hog Day). A Panhandle hook is a relatively infrequent storm system that forms in the South to southwestern United States from the late fall through winter and into the early spring months. Panhandle Hooks trek to the northeast on a path towards the Great Lakes region, as the southwesterly jet streams are most prevalent, usually affecting the Midwestern United States and Eastern Canada.
It’s too early to confirm the track, and currently the track puts the heaviest snow south of Chicago at Champaign, Illinois and in the Ohio River Valley. If Chicago is not on track for heavy snow; some snow, high winds and a cold blast Wednesday are still likely.
The associated jet stream in a Panhandle Hook is stronger than normal and there is colder than normal air in place in central Canada. A greater than normal temperature contrast, combined with Gulf of Mexico moisture drawn northward by the developing panhandle low, can energize the storm and cause a great swath of heavy snow to develop and blanket a large portion of the American Great Plains and upper-midwestern states in conjunction with very strong winds.
Panhandle hooks account for some of the most memorable and deadly blizzards and snowstorms in North America, as well as tornado outbreaks in the Midwest on record. The name is derived from the region of surface cyclogenesis in the Texas and Oklahoma “panhandle” regions. In some winters, there are no panhandle hook storms; in others, there are several.
The ‘Big Snow’ of Chicago or “The Great Midwest Blizzard” was an intense “Panhandle hook” storm that tracked from New Mexico northeast up the Ohio Valley. Central and northern Illinois, northern Indiana, southeast Iowa, Lower Michigan, Missouri and Kansas were hit hard by this blizzard. Kalamazoo, Michigan reported 28 inches of snow, Gary, Indiana 24 inches and Chicago 23 inches. Winds of 50 mph created drifts to 15 feet! Seventy-six people died, most in the Chicago area. This blizzard still ranks as Chicago’s heaviest snowfall in a 24-hour period.