Brutal cold grips Chicago, suburbs; Some Ind. schools open late

December 12, 2013 (CHICAGO)

Warming Centers: State of Illinois Warming Centers, City of Chicago Warming Centers, Suburban Cook County Warming Centers

"I am not a fan of it, I actually just moved by the lake. I'm enjoying seeing the lake freeze, but not the breeze," said Sara Muth.

And it's just the beginning of December, and beginning of winter in Chicago. The back-to-back days of arctic conditions are also rough on your pipes. Just ask Tom McHugh of Rob West Plumbing, they've been slammed with house calls.

"It takes about one or two days consecutive freezes and then you've got a lot of pipe bursts," said McHugh.

But there is some good news: temperatures are on the rise now, and plan to get even higher on Friday. But with that, prepare for another round of snow.

"It's been at least five years since we've had a winter this cold, so we're all digging out our winter clothes. We've been spoiled lately, but it's cool, we're Chicagoans. We can deal, we know how to deal," said Kat Vallera.

Darting in and out of the cold to catch a train is one thing, but working in the bitter temperatures is another.

The call comes in and firefighters must get ready in seconds. In this kind of cold, firefighters are no different than anyone else; they layer up-- except their layers go under about 70 pounds of gear.

"The guys are going to put on an extra sweatshirt, long underwear, heavier socks. . . The fire gear we wear normally protect thermally for both heat and cold," said District Chief Kenneth Wojtecki, Chicago Fire Dept.

The Chicago Fire Department says the biggest challenge in extreme cold and snow is trying to maneuver while fighting a fire.

"Anytime we put water on a fire, you're going to have water on the streets, on the stairs that become slippery," said Wojtecki.

The winter is always a busy time for firefighters as the department gets its fair share of cold-related calls, such as space heater fires. People try to stay warm by using stoves and with heavy use of wood burning fireplaces, chimney fires are also on the list. This fireplace was so dirty and full of soot, the chimney cleaners say the chimney was close to catching on fire.

"It dries out and then you get a flare up from a piece of wood, and that catches fire, and then your whole flue is on fire," said Justin Smith, Fireplace & Chimney Authority Company.

To avoid a chimney fire, the Fireplace & Chimney Authority Company recommends getting your fireplace and chimney cleaned once every 60 fires, or every face cord of wood.

"When you start seeing the glazing and the shin, whether it be on back wall or on the throat where the damper is, that's when you should probably look at getting a cleaning," said Smith.

Besides getting your chimney and fireplace cleaned, the Chicago Fire Dept. also recommends a furnace cleaning.

It is also a good time of year to make sure your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors are working.

Extreme cold gives some Chicago drivers car trouble

Putting a charge into a car owner's dead battery is a scene that played out hundreds of times today as people coped with the extreme cold.

The day did not start well for Almeria Thomas. A kind passerby actually gave her a ride to work, and a friend came to help her start the car along the Bishop Ford. Even better, an IDOT minute man came to push the SUV to a safer place.

"It was not a good morning but then it is a good morning because I'm still blessed, and I'm here, that makes it a great morning," said Thomas.

IDOT crews see a lot of car trouble in extremely cold weather. Minuteman Matt Spina says he had nearly double the typical amount of car trouble stops yesterday.

"Being a minute man in December, January, February, I would consider to be extremely difficult, much more than in June or July," said Spina.

Tight and possible frozen bolts on a bad tire had Dino Rodriguez and a friend on the side of Bishop Ford struggling to change the tire. Minuteman Spina can get them all out of harm's way in just a few minutes.

Illinois State Police urge motorists with car trouble or accidents to get try and move their vehicles if possible off the road for their safety. Trooper Teressa Allen also reminds those in minor accidents they have 10 days to report the accident.

"When it comes down to an accident, you can always exchange information, but we also have several police locations where we take reports at," said Allen.

Cold weather fails to deter shoppers

So far, the bitter temperatures haven't slowed down the December retail season.

"Historically, the only the only thing that really knocks us off our game is a debilitating snow storm," said John Chikow, Greater North Michigan Avenue Association.

The Greater North Michigan Avenue Association says retailers that sell cold weather clothes and accessories are doing more than ok. This week alone, Columbia Sportswear has been extremely busy, and not with holiday shoppers, but customers just trying to outfit themselves.

"We get a lot of tourists. I think people are caught off guard traveling, that's another thing we see when the weather gets bad," said Alison Anderson, store manager, Columbia Sportwear.

Morning lows dip below zero across Chicago area

In Aurora, the Thursday morning low was -16. At O'Hare it was -5, and at Midway -2 degrees. A Wind Chill Advisory was in effect until 5 a.m. for much of the area, and led some schools in Indiana to delay classes.

"It is still going to be bitterly cold, even when the wind chill advisory expires," ABC7 Meteorologist Tracy Butler said. "This is only the third time this year we've had a temperature drop below zero at O'Hare."

The cold temperatures aren't keeping the faithful from visiting the Our Lady of Guadeloupe shrine, the only replica outside of Mexico City, at Maryville Academy in Des Plaines.

"Every year, I come here with my family to see her. It is a special day and my mom asks her for favors and, thank God, she is still with us. So we are grateful," Laura Cuel said.

More than 100,000 people are expected to visit the shrine.

Officials urge people to take precautions in the dangerous cold: bundle up in layers, stay inside when possible, and check on the elderly.

Snow expected Friday evening

Get ready for some snow! One to three inches of snow is expected to fall Friday evening into Saturday morning.

Copyright © 2023 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.