Arctic blast, Polar Vortex settle over city, suburbs

Dangerous cold is keeping IDOT crews and the minutemen that clear crashes from the expressways very busy.
January 28, 2014 4:45:05 AM PST
Here we go again. Brutally cold weather is back in Chicago, closing schools, interrupting public transit and canceling flights.

Dangerous Cold: How to prepare for winter storms, extreme cold | Winter driving tips | Health, safety tips | Protecting your pets | What you need in your car | What you need to do at home | Chicago Warming Centers

A wind chill warning is in effect until 9 a.m. Wednesday for most of the Chicago area, and in Indiana, a Winter Weather Advisory is in effect until noon Wednesday for Elkhart, La Porte, St Joseph and Steuben counties.

If Chicago spends to 60 hours with temperatures below zero, this dangerous cold will be the longest stretch since 1983 - when it was below zero for 98 hours - and the third longest in 80 years.

"It's teaching my third-grade son to be a true Chicagoan," said Jessica Ashley, 41, a blogger in Chicago's Ravenswood.

Temperatures Monday were expected to hover between -2 and -6 with wind chill values between 30 to 40 below zero, according to the National Weather Service. They dropped even lower overnight, hitting -12 by Tuesday morning.

A warm place to sleep is critical in conditions like this. Many shelters- including one in west suburban Downers Grove - were filled on Monday night.

"A shelter is saving my life tonight. Absolutely no doubt about it," said Brad Brown.

DuPage PADS shelters are at full capacity and offering extended hours during the cold snap. But for many, daytime brings new dangers as they head in search of new shelter.

"Right now in this frigid weather we're concerned about people's safety and their wellbeing," said Carol Simler, DuPage PADS.

CPS closed Monday, Tuesday

All Chicago Public Schools were closed Monday and will close again on Tuesday due to the extreme cold. Dozens of other schools in the city and suburbs also closed. MORE: Emergency and School Closings

Also closed: Chicago's Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium.

The school closures left some parents scrambling to find someone to watch their children. The Logan Square YMCA offered all day supervision for $40.

CPS officials said the schools were closed because some children walk to school.

"It throws everyone into chaos, Sarah Baker, CPS parent, said. With Tuesday's closure, it'll be the fourth day CPS has closed due to cold weather.

Meanwhile, some Chicago universities that stayed open were criticized by students on social media for that decision. Other students say it's not a big deal.

Travel- by road, rail and air- hampered by cold

The cold is creating hazardous conditions across the state. Illinois State Police issued alerts for several counties due to blowing and drifting snow. The Illinois Department of Transportation did the same.

IDOT said it has been adding sand to its usual salt mixture to improve traction on the roads. But officials say many drivers are still driving too fast. In these temperatures, black ice is certainly a danger.

In LaSalle County, slick roads became nearly impassable for a time on Monday due to white out conditions. The conditions are worse in rural areas, like Route 47 in Kane County. Officials there advise people to go out only if they must, and warn that even emergency responders have trouble under these treacherous conditions.

In Chicago, the CTA issued a warning of possible significant delays due to weather. Most have been minor. The critical issue for the CTA: keeping the third rail from icing up. Otherwise, the train loses connectivity.

"It's critical we have a jump on this and we stay on it until we get through the entire weather event," Tom Dietrich, CTA, said.

On every rail car, there's a metal scraper that ride atop the third rail. Also, occasionally, a lead car train will have a de-icing paste that's squired onto the rail.

"Traditionally, it lasts between a half hour to 45 minutes, so we have a couple of these trains out laying the paste down," Dietrich said. "We want to make sure we're staying ahead of any problems of ice building up on that third rail."

Commuters are advised to allow extra travel time as more delays could come. Updates are available at transitchicago.com.

Metra warned commuters for days that Monday and Tuesday's service would most likely be delayed, but no major problems were reported- unlike earlier this month when the area was hit with dangerous cold and snow that froze switches.

"It was just a ten-minute delay, but still cold. I'm wearing two pairs of socks, and still cold," Andrea Charise said.

Passengers are advised to keep track of travel advisories for their trains at www.metrarail.com.

With many commuters staying home, this winter's white-out costing employers plenty of green.

"One study said that this winter could cost companies up to five billion dollars in lost productivity," said John Challenger, Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

O'Hare International Airport canceled more than 480 flights for Monday, while at least 80 flights were canceled at Midway Airport, according to the city's Department of Aviation. Minor delays are also reported at both airports.

Travelers are advised to check their flight status before heading to the airports.


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