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Chicago Weather: Temperatures plummet with wind chills as low as -30

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Temperatures across the Chicago area plummeted to single digits with wind chills as low as -30 Thursday. (WLS)

Chicago area residents should wear as many layers as possible Thursday.

Thursday's high temperature will be 8 degrees. That's more than 25 degrees below normal. Wind chills will range from 0 to -30 over the course of the day, ABC7 Meteorologist Tracy Butler said.

Snow will also return to the area beginning Friday afternoon. A Winter Weather Advisory is in effect for the Chicago area from 12 p.m. Friday through 6 a.m. Sunday. Snow is expected to begin late Friday, according to ABC 7 Meteorologist Cheryl Scott, and will create slick driving conditions late Friday into early Saturday. A few inches of snow could accumulate Friday night into the start of the weekend. And while snow is expected to turn into wintery rain during the day Saturday, another round of snow is expected to arrive late Saturday night.

American Airlines issued a warning that the winter storm may impact travel and urged customers to consider rebooking flights that could be canceled. The airline issued a travel alert which they said allows customers whose travels plans may be impacted to rebook their flights without change fees.

Some senior citizens in Rogers Park were forced to use space heaters as a temporary fix to stay warm, even though the fire department does not recommend their use because they are fire hazards.

At Caroline Hedger Apartments, where construction crews are gutting the building and renovating, space heaters are cranked but the temperature, in residents' words, is low.

"It's a bit chilly," said James Robinson. "There is no heat in the bathroom at all."

"I cannot even give my client a bath," said Jeny Zutaut, Robinson's home health worker.

A senior community group held a news conference to bring attention to the issue.

"The residents need to live in a safe place that has adequate heat," said Nana Cross, Jane Addams Senior Caucus.

"We're getting older, our bodies don't work like they did when we were 20. Please help us," said Peggy Spencer, CHA resident.

At one point Chicago Housing Authority employees notified police, concerned about residents inviting news crews into their units. Some residents admit they use extreme measures to stay warm. Donald Elmore uses his oven.

"Little bit. Every now and then, every now and then," Elmore said.

A CHA spokeswoman said residents can get up to three space heaters for their units, and that the units were in compliance with city codes when they were checked last week. Finally, staff members are conducting three well-being checks on residents per day.

Still, Robinson was cold in his newly-renovated unit.

"Quite frankly, the apartment I had before this one, before they remodeled was better. The heat worked. There was heat in the bathroom. Now there is nothing," Robinson said.

Along with having up to three space heaters, a CHA spokeswoman said residents impacted will get a $100 gift card to help pay their electric bills, and if the bill is higher than that the contractor handling renovations will pay for the rest of the bills.

BRUTAL COLD WREAKS HAVOC ON CARS

When the weather dips well below freezing, Alfonso Gray's workload at AAA Chicago heats up, responding to call after call from drivers with car problems mostly due to the temperatures.

"We kind of dress for the weather, put on layers but try not to overdress because you are in and out of the truck," Gray said.

Marisa O'Donnell called for help Thursday morning after her SUV wouldn't start last night after work.

"I had to go get my kids so I had to leave it and get in an Uber, so I called AAA this morning when I got back to work," she said.

Gray jump starts her car but lets her know her battery needs to be replaced. The next stop for O'Donnell and so many others this time of year is to a mechanic.

"When it gets super cold outside, those batteries are not going to react the way they once did. Cooling systems are going to start freezing up. Tires are going to start blowing it. Basic maintenance on cars is the best way of preventing problems when it gets super cold outside," said Matt Tefka, Fulton-Desplaines Garage.

AAA Chicago is also reminding drivers to be on the lookout for crews.

"So many folks out there are trying to help others on the side of the road. Move over, slow down, give them the space they need to do their job safely," said Beth Bosher, AAA Chicago spokesperson.

"It's going to be a long winter. I'm ready for it. It's my time to shine," Gray said.

AAA said if you do not use your car daily, run the engine for at least 15 minutes to help save the battery.

COLD DOESN'T STOP CHRISTMAS SHOPPING, JUST MOVES IT INDOORS

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With temperatures well below freezing, Chicagoans aren't skipping their Christmas shopping, they're just taking it indoors.



With below-freezing temperatures and a 1-year-old, Bianca Torres came to the Chicago Ridge Mall.

"I was thinking like, oh we got to get our Christmas shopping done, and even though it's so cold out let's go to the mall, get the Santa pictures, and then we have the stores here where we can get everything done at one time, so we don't have to worry about going in and out, in and out, to different places," Torres said.

Downtown, some strategic shoppers were outside.

"I wanted to make sure, first of all, that I tried to stay underground as much as possible so downtown we've got the nice pedway system," Shawn Crump said.

"Just kept the focus, you know. It's all about your friends and family that you're getting your gifts for. They need you to stay warm," Daniel Fuentes said.

Macy's on State Street was a warm spot to shop and fulfill holiday traditions.

"With it being cold outside it really doesn't deter, but I have to say that people are probably more selective of where they are going," said Andrea Schwartz, Macy's.

SOME SCHOOLS CLOSE FOR COLD THURSDAY

Chicago Public Schools have regular classes Thursday. CPS said engineers kept a close watch on school heating systems Thursday. Students and crossing guards threw on a few extra layers Thursday morning. Some students said they considered staying home, but changed their mind.

Bus drivers also started their vehicles extra early to make sure they were at a comfortable temperature for students and staff.

Dozens of other schools in the area are closed due to the cold. CLICK HERE to see which schools are affected.

Those schools include two in north suburban Waukegan, Clearview Elementary School and Lightfoot Early Learning Center, which were shut down because of a water main break. The rest of the schools in the Waukegan School District 60 were open Thursday, but parents were given the option to keep their child at home as an excused absence.

COMMUTERS LAYER TO STAY WARM, AVOID FROSTBITE

To avoid frostbite, which doctors warn can set in very quickly, and hypothermia, commuters must bundle up. Put on a warm coat, gloves, a hat, a scarf and boots if possible.

Several trains on different Metra lines were delayed Thursday due to mechanical problems caused by the extreme cold.

"I understand switches have a problem with the cold. So we can expect some delays," said Rosa Dawson, a Metra rider.

Metra said the freezing temperatures can lead to a variety of problems including frozen switches, locomotive/rail car breakdowns, broken rails and signal problems.

Follow your Metra line on Twitter or visit metrarail.com for the latest updates on delays.

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