The Illinois Department of Transportation is warning the public to be cautious and drive at their own discretion as winter weather sweeps across the state this weekend.

According to the department, hazardous conditions such as storms, heavy snow and bitter cold are expected to make travel dangerous, creating extremely slick conditions and poor visibility.

They urge drivers to strongly consider postponing any unnecessary travel.

“IDOT crews will be out on the roads, but conditions could still be extremely hazardous, so we encourage motorists to ask themselves if they really need to make the trip,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman. “If you do have to travel, remember that the bitter cold and wind reduces the effectiveness of the materials we use to treat snow and ice. There will be lengthy travel times, so make sure to prepare your vehicle in the event you are stranded.”

The National Weather Service’s weekend forecast predicts:

  • A strong storm system with a wide range of weather New Year’s Day through New Year’s night
  • Rain and several inches of snow expected across Illinois, and a transition zone including a wintry mix with minor ice accumulations possible, most prevalent on Saturday between Interstate 80 and Interstate 70
  • Gusty north winds Saturday afternoon that will create blowing and drifting snow on east-west roads; the system may trigger strong to severe storms south of Interstate 64 Friday evening through Saturday
  • Damaging winds and a few possible tornadoes
  • Heavy rainfall Friday night through Saturday could produce minor flooding of roads in low-lying and poor drainage areas
  • The coldest air of the season, with wind chills falling between zero to -20F west of the Interstate 55 corridor Sunday morning and north of the Interstate 72 corridor Monday morning, which will cause roads to freeze

“Statewide, IDOT has available more than 1,800 trucks and equipment to treat roads and respond to weather emergencies,” a news release says. “If you encounter a plow or any maintenance vehicle during your travels, please slow down, increase your driving distance and remain patient.”

The department provided these additional safety tips for those who must travel:

  • Take it slow, especially when approaching intersections, ramps, bridges and shaded areas that are prone to icing.
  • Make sure your gas tank is full.
  • Keep a cell phone, warm clothes, blankets, food, water, a first aid kit, washer fluid and an ice scraper in your vehicle.
  • Check the forecast and make sure someone is aware of your route and schedule.
  • Carry a cell phone and dial *999 in the Chicago area for assistance in case of emergency.
  • Reminder: Using handheld phones while driving is illegal in Illinois, unless it is an emergency situation.
  • If you are involved in a crash or break down, remain inside your vehicle, which is your safest form of shelter; exiting your vehicle into live traffic can have fatal consequences.
  • Always wear a seat belt, whether you’re sitting in the front seat or back seat.

Regular updates on statewide road conditions are available here or by following the Illinois Department of Transportation on Facebook and Twitter.

Stay tuned to Local 4 News, FOX 18 News and OurQuadCities.com for local weather updates.