Bitter cold grips Chicago

December 22, 2008 8:07:49 PM PST
Temperatures have finally climbed above zero, but it is still very cold. The storms and cold weather have caused a lot of power outages.

On Monday night, ComEd says 100,980 customers are still without power. More than 100,000 customers have gotten their power back since last Wednesday.

In northwest Indiana, Nipsco says 2400 customers are still without power.

Several emergency warming shelters are open for people looking for relief from the bitter cold temperatures. For more information, call 311 for help for you or for someone you know.

The cold grips the Chicago area with a chilling effect. Waterways are frozen. Even the ducks are finding refuge from the ice.

These temperatures are not safe for mankind.

The city closed eight park district ice rinks due to the cold.

"Just as the Bears have a game plan for tonight, you need a plan. You need to plan ahead to keep yourself protected from the elements and the perils of frostbite and hypothermia," said Dr. Terry Mason, commissioner for the Dept. of Public Health.

On Monday, city officials urged residents to share responsibility and look out for those who may be in frail health or running low on resources.

"The longer the cold persists, the more dangerous it becomes. We ask our residents to remain vigilant. If you need assistance yourself, call 311, or if you know somebody else who does, please, call 311," said Eileen Donnersberger, acting commissioner, Chicago Dept. of Human Services.

"We've been working with citizens all day since very early this morning because a lot of them are complaining that they're iced in. At this point, you have to dig them out. As I always say, please don't throw it on the street. Throw it on the parkway," said Mike Picardi, commissioner for the Dept. of Streets and Sanitation.

Iced power lines caused problems in northwest Indiana. ABC7 found NIPSCO crews trying to break the icy grip on a frozen switch. The crews have been running all weekend after an ice storm and winds rocked ice-laden power lines.

"It's been hectic. We get the customers on, everybody almost on, and then the wind picks up and knocks everybody back out again," said Charlie Lundquist, NIPSCO.

Near St. John, Indiana, Gene McHugh said it took several trips to start his car alternating between the warmth indoors and the bitter cold outside.

"You come out, go in, come out. If you were a little kid, it would be fun," said Gene McHugh, Indiana resident.

Ice, cold snarl Chicago morning commute

Workers from city's Department of Human Services has been conducting well-being checks on the elderly, sick residents and the homeless.

The frigid temperatures also can make quite a mess when pipes break. That was exactly the problem at Chef Klaus' restaurant in Frankfort. A sprinkler pipe burst, dumping water all over the place.

Flooding problems forced some people to leave a Tinley Park hotel overnight. Pipes broke, flooding parts of the Hilton Garden Inn. About 25 people had to move to a neighboring hotel.

Ice-glazing caused by the bitter cold snarled expressways for many Chicago commuters Monday morning.

The Illinois Department of Transportation says the intense cold contributed to the problems by making the salt spread by its trucks less effective in melting the ice.

The eastbound lanes of the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway were completely closed for several hours early Monday morning because of a chain-reaction crash that involved at least ten vehicles.

Problems were also reported on the Edens Expressway because of multiple rollover crashes and vehicles skidding off the pavement.

Authorities were warning Chicago area residents to just stay inside Sunday.

Like a winter ghost rising from the street, Sunday's brutal wind chill was somewhat visible throughout the Chicago area because of winds and leftover snow.

"The wind chill is humongous. If you don't have on the right clothes, it'll carry you away," Tommy Dorn said.

On Sunday, the city activated the Office of Emergency Management and Communications "Joint Operation Center," allowing officials from several city departments to coordinate efforts to fight the cold and keep residents safe.

"Don't let common sense become uncommon in this season. If you don't have to go outside, stay in. If you do have to go outside, make those trips as short as possible," said Dr. Terry Mason, commissioner for the Dept. of Public Health.

Many people who were brave enough to go outside Sunday afternoon had some shoveling and pushing to do before they could drive anywhere. And although many side streets were salted, many of them were still in rough shape. Officials say there hasn't been much traffic on those streets.

"What activates salt is traffic and friction. That's why you see the main streets in good shape, but the side streets, you'll see very little pavement," said Mike Picardi, commissioner for the Dept. of Streets and Sanitation.

While driving was more difficult Sunday, city officials were also concerned about those who may have lost heat in their homes. Authorities are asking residents to look out for one another, like one woman, Josephine Green, who regularly checks in on her 96-year-old neighbor who lives in the apartment below her.

"I check on him all the time," she said. "I still go and check on him, feed him, see if he needs anything from the store."

Entire families needed assistance Sunday.

"The warming center is beautiful. It's a blessing," one person told ABC7 Chicago.

The DHS had workers on the streets looking for Chicago's homeless people, but they are asking for the public's help. If you see someone who may need assistance, please call the city's non-emergency phone number, 3-1-1.

In northwest suburban Huntley, drivers had to deal with the cold as well as blowing snow Sunday. A blizzard warning is in effect for several Illinois counties because of the strong winds that are kicking up snow and causing reduced visibility.

As for air travel, the Department of Aviation says O'Hare had 150 flight cancellations Sunday but only minor delays. Only a few problems were reported at Midway Airport because of the weather.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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