Chicago weather: Dangerous cold moves in after lake-effect snow

As the heaviest lake-effect snow moves east, wind chills in parts of the Chicago area could plunge as low as 25 degrees below zero.
January 5, 2014 10:51:19 AM PST
As the heaviest lake-effect snow moves east, wind chills in parts of the Chicago area could plunge as low as 25 below zero.

PHOTOS: Snowy Chicago!

The city said all of its snow plows are now focused on residential side streets, but many remain a work in progress. A lot of residents were out clearing sidewalks Thursday night, and they needed plenty of warm layers.

In the Roseland Heights neighborhood, residents on snow-covered Forest Avenue were shoveling their sidewalks in a hurry.

"You can't be out here that long. Exposing the skin, you get frostbite quick," said Maurice Ford.

Shannon Rogers needed a scraper, not just a brush. He was not about to wait until tomorrow to clean his car.

As the mercury plummeted, the Thursday afternoon commute turned messy. A band of lake-effect snow downtown slowed rush hour traffic.

"It was clear on Harrison, but once you passed over, it just went nothing but snow everywhere. No one could go fast. Everyone was taking it easy," said Marvitta Smith, motorist.

With temperatures in the single digits, The Night Ministry brought its van to Humboldt Park to provide a hot meal and health care services to some of the city's poor.

"On nights like this, a lot of times our volunteer groups help us out. They bring extra gloves and hats and anything that other people would need," said Stacy Massey.

Bands of intense lake-effect snow caused white-out conditions in some areas as they moved east throughout the day on Thursday. The heaviest snow hit Chicago right in time for the afternoon rush hour.

"Northern suburbs were hit first, and in many cases the hardest," ABC7 Chicago Meteorologist Mike Caplan said. The lake-effect snow bands shifted into Northwest Indiana on Thursday evening, where a lake effect snow warning is in effect until 4 a.m. on Friday for Lake and Porter counties in Indiana.

"The snow is moving out, and the cold is coming in," Caplan said. That bitter cold will settle in over Chicago through next week. Already a wind chill advisory is in effect for Boone, DeKalb, Grundy, Kane, Kendall, La Salle, Lee, Livingston, McHenry, Ogle and Winnebago counties in Illinois until 10 a.m. Friday. Temperatures drop to below zero for much of the area overnight, although the city will remain just above- at 5-degrees- around 7 a.m. Friday. We'll get into the teens for the high temperatures.

Snow totals add up to double-digits for many

The first round of snow hit on New Year's Eve. Since then, it's just been piling up in many areas. As of 6 p.m., accumulation totals for some areas were: 16.7 inches in Libertyville, 16.0 inches in Gurnee, 15.1 inches in Highwood, 15.0 inches in Palatine, 10.0 inches in Evaston, 13.0 inches in Downers Grove, 13.3 inches in Morton Grove, 12.3 inches at Midway Airport, 10.4 inches in Genoa, and 9.0 inches in Oak Lawn.

The lake effect snow will end Thursday night, but another storm will hit Saturday afternoon and evening. Only one- to two- inches of snow is expected to fall.

Snow plows, salt trucks out in full-force

Thursday's snow struck in the city during both the morning and afternoon rush hours. Spinouts and crashes on area roadways led to traffic backups on highways and interstates as well as city roads. The Illinois Department of Transportation had 375 trucks out salting and plowing, and the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation has its full snow removal fleet of 287 plows and salt spreaders out in the city. City crews are focusing on main streets and Lake Shore Drive and will be deployed to residential streets after the snow ends and the main roads are clear.

"Please be patient, drive safely, and allow that equipment to pass," Chicago Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Charles Williams said. To view the city's snow fleet in real time, visit For additional updates on snow removal efforts, follow the Department on Twitter @Streetsandsan.

Williams also suggested that people help their neighbors instead of calling "dibs" on street parking, a longtime Chicago tradition in which motorists claim a spot they shoveled out with chairs or other items.

"All that's doing is littering your street," Williams said. "If we have to go out on the street, that stuff's got to go."

Police say they won't issue tickets for marking your parking spot, but say they'd rather people help their neighbors than litter the street.

USPS makes plea to clear walkways for mail carriers

The U.S. Post Office is also asking people to clear their sidewalks, stairs, porches and mailboxes to help mail carriers better do their jobs.

"The hardest part is treading through the snow when the people don't shovel," said Belinda Nails, letter carrier.

"Delivery service may be delayed or curtailed whenever streets or walkways present hazardous conditions for letter carriers. The Postal Service curtails delivery only after careful consideration, and only as a last resort (any curtailed mail is attempted the next delivery day)," USPS said in a statement.

Tim Rudolphi and his daughter are digging out. He's shoveling, she's go the snow blower.

"This is probably one of the easiest snows we've had cause it's so light. So it's easy. I like shoveling," Rudolphi said.

McKenna's not quite as big a fan. "That's going to be a long day. And it's still snowing," she said.

Chicago officials said people who need help with either getting their homes heated, which must be to 68-degrees according to law, or getting to a heating center, should call 3-1-1.

Divvy bikes, ice rinks close for day; Flights delayed, canceled

The Secretary of State canceled all driver's license road tests because of the weather in the Chicago area, and the Chicago Park District closed outdoor ice rinks. Also, Divvy bikes stations are closed for the day.

Low visibility and the de-icing of aircrafts led to flight delays at Midway and O'Hare airports. As of Thursday at 9 p.m., airlines at O'Hare had proactively canceled 300 flights and most other flights were seeing 45 minute delays. At Midway, about 120 flights were canceled and two hour delays were reported. Most of the cancelations are preemptive, so there's a lot of catching up to do- on sleep, on a book, on anything else. For some travelers, it's a lesson in patience.

"We've been talking to them about it a great deal," Liz Hoover said of her children. "Patience, flexibility. Take a deep breath."

There's no time to take a breath on the tarmacs at Midway or O'Hare, where planes are lined up, de-icing is constant, and snow plows work in tandem on the runways.

"We happened to come when there was a lot of weather," Marilyn Brown said. "You can't do much about this kind of weather."