City braces for arctic blast

January 18, 2008 5:14:43 AM PST
Temperatures rose above freezing Thursday, but an arctic blast is bearing down on the Chicago area. You can expect the mercury to drop into the single digits by the weekend.

And when you add the wind-chill you will feel like it's well below zero. Air travelers are already feeling the effects. Delays at O'Hare Thursday ranged from 30 minutes to 2 hours. More than 200 flights have been cancelled.

While the city was worried about the weather on Thursday, they are more concerned about the cold weather ahead. All city departments are gearing up and they have tips and warnings for all.

Thursday may have been an ugly weather day but at least it was warm enough to walk around without a hat, in some extreme cases without a coat. That's Thursday. In 48 hours, it's going to feel like January in Chicago.

"The National Weather Service has issued a wind chill advisory which is in effect from midnight Friday to noon on Sunday. Temperatures are expected to drop as low as 10 below zero with wind chills of less than 20 degrees below zero," said Antonio Ruiz, Emergency Management and Communications.

The city is getting prepared. Common sense warnings for all, especially when it comes to preventing your pipes from freezing. The best advice is to let water trickle from your tap, but if your pipes do freeze, "Use a hair drier or meeting pad to all your pipes. But the best thing to do would be to contact a licensed plumber," said John Spatz, Chicago Water Department.

When it gets real cold the city says the biggest problem is fires caused by space heaters.

"Sixty-two-thousand fires are caused by space heaters. The number two cause of fires," said Joseph Roccasalva, deputy district fire chief.

The Chicago Fire Department recommends not using space heaters. However, if you must, take the appropriate precautions.

"Keep it 36 inches away from anything that's flammable. Furniture. Draperies. Things like that," said Roccasalva.

And dressing appropriately is the key to preventing frostbite or hypothermia. Layering with down, wool or fleece helps. And long underwear is a good investment as well.

"Something synthetic works really well," said David Sweeney, Patagonia. "Merino wool underwear that keeps you very warm. So having a layer next to your skin warm and dry, a great step toward keeping your whole body warm. Especially if you're going to be outside for an extended period of time. The folks at the Patagonia store say don't wear cotto

n because it can get wet and lose the body heat. And the most important thing to wear in cold weather is a hat. That's because 60 percent of your body heat comes from your head.

The city also stresses, this weekend, lookout for the elderly and kids, and call 3-1-1 if you need some help.