Icy, frigid winter storm hits Chicago area

January 30, 2008 5:33:15 PM PST
Brutally cold weather has people rushing to get inside, off Chicago streets. The frigid air Wednesday had people looking forward to getting back to work and into their warm offices.

Temperatures have been as much as 50 degrees colder than Tuesday. The wind chills are nasty.

Brutal. Bitter. Unbearable. Whatever word you want to use to describe Wednesday's weather, the bottom-line is, it's tough to take.

Commuters like to gripe about the cold, but at least they're headed someplace warm. Not these guys. Like a commercial for commitment, this ComEd crew keeps working even when the wind is whipping.

"I got about 12 layers on, so that's about the best way," said Juan Feliciano, ComEd repairman.

While most people sacrifice fashion for fear of frost-bite, not Jim Hardy. No coat for him. Even if the rest of his crew thinks he's nuts.

"As long as the sun stays up, 85 percent of the day I'm like this. Once the sun goes down, it's a different story. The wind comes, when the hawk comes out," said Hardy.

Overnight, the cold and wind hit Chicago like a slap in the face. Shoppers struggled to control their carts. Those without better options spent Wednesday in warming shelters. They know another tough night is ahead. The city is encouraging anyone who needs help to call.

"If you need assistance, or you think someone else needs assistance, we urge you to call 3-1-1 so that the proper city agency can be notified, and we will do a well-being check if we are requested to do so," said Ronald Bogan, Cook County deputy commissioner.

Inadequate heat is the problem plaguing one family is the city's Hegewish neighborhood. The thermostat shows an indoor air temp of 57 degrees, 11 degrees below city requirements.

"This is actually warmer then what it's going to be later tonight for us. Tonight, you can actually see your breath. You're shaking. Even under four and five blankets, sometimes you just can't get warm," said Ileana Rodriguez, cold tenant.

That family has called the landlord and city several times to complain about inadequate heat. Wednesday, they were frustrated, and they called ABC7.

"You can't sleep at night. When you do sleep at night, it's under three quilts and one heavy blanket," said tenant Bruce Hale.

"It's just really bad. There isn't much you can do," said tenant Ileana Rodriguez.

While the ABC7 crew was at the building, the lights went out. Rodriguez said that happens often. Chicago's building department confirms inspectors cited the landlord for electrical violations following a December 27 complaint.

The tenants have also registered at least seven complaints about inadequate heat with the city since Christmas. So far, one has resulted in a citation, but there was no court date yet. And that, the family says, has done nothing to get their furnace fixed and the apartment warmed.

"They keep saying we'll take him to court, give him fines, and they really haven't done anything about it," sad Rodriguez.

We looked for the landlord at a nearby business he's involved in. A woman, who identified herself as the landlord's wife, said her husband wasn't available.

A spokesperson for the building department says the city is in a bind because they.can't really send out crews to fix every faulty furnace out there. In extreme cases, though, the city does relocate residents.

We did reach the landlord by phone late Wednesday afternoon. He originally said that if the tenants don't like the conditions, they should move out. We informed him that he appeared to be in violation of city code, and then he changed his tone a bit, and he promised to fix the furnace to make it "perfect."

If your landlord is not keeping the heat at least 68 degrees, the city encourages you to call 311.