A high wind warning is in effect Wednesday evening until Thursday morning for much of the Chicago and Rockford area. Areas shaded red are expected to have peak wind gusts of over 60 mph while areas shaded orange are expected to have peak wind gusts of over 50 mph. | Graphic via National Weather Service

The National Weather Service has issued a high wind warning for the northern Illinois area in anticipation of damaging winds that could cause widespread power outages Wednesday evening.

A “major weather system” is strengthening Wednesday as it tracks from western to central United States, the NWS said.

Nearly every county in Illinois is under a wind advisory or high wind warning.

The National Weather Service (NWS) said a high wind warning will be in effect from 6 p.m. Wednesday until 9 a.m. Thursday.

Portions of north-central and northeast Illinois, including Lake County and McHenry County, are included in the high wind warning.

The impacted areas are expected to experience southwest winds of 30 to 35 mph with gusts over 60 mph.

The period most favored for damaging winds is expected to be between 8 p.m. Wednesday and 3 a.m. Thursday, the NWS said.

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Damaging winds are likely to blow down trees and power lines.

Widespread power outages are possible, the NWS said. “Travel will be difficult, especially for high profile vehicles.”

Officials recommend residents secure any outdoor decorations, including holiday decorations, and light outdoor furniture. “Use caution when driving in windy conditions, especially on interstates and open roads.”

“People should avoid being outside in forested areas and around trees and branches. If possible, remain in the lower levels of your home during the windstorm, and avoid windows. Use caution if you must drive,” the NWS said in the warning.