Chicago Weather: Bitter cold descends on Chicago, suburbs after snow storm

Roads are covered with blowing snow as hospitals prepare for an influx of cold-weather related emergencies, including frostbite and hypothermia.
January 3, 2014 8:31:42 PM PST
After being blanketed by snow, the National Weather Service forecasts northeastern Illinois will be hit by single-digit temperatures before moderating early during the weekend before a deep freeze sets in.

Dangerous Cold: Winter driving tips | Health, safety tips | Protecting your pets | What you need in your car | What you need to do at home | Chicago Warming Centers

A winter weather advisory for blowing and drifting snow is in effect for Boone, Cook, De Kalb, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kendall, La Salle, Lake, Lee, McHenry, Ogle, Will, and Winnebago counties until 9 a.m. on Saturday. In Indiana, a winter weather advisory for blowing and drifting snow also remains in effect for Benton, Jasper, Lake, Newton and Porter counties until 10 a.m. on Saturday.

Howling winds made for tough driving, and 30 mph gusts caused whiteout conditions in Kane County on Friday.

Doctors throughout the Chicago area are preparing for an influx of frostbite and hypothermia cases as temperatures plunge. Doctors warn that frostbite can happen in minutes.

"A first-degree frostbite is redness to the tissue when it warms up, a second-degree is blistering, and a third-degree frostbite is actual death of tissue," said Dr. Donald Steiner, Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital.

Cog Hill Golf Course is holding its 50th annual Eskimo Open on Sunday. Bad weather is the point of the event, but organizers may shorten the course to nine holes.

Chicago's Streets and Sanitation Department says it has more than 280 salt spreaders ready to fight icy streets when necessary the next few days. When temperatures are below zero, the department says it will use beet juice along with salt. Beet juice works as a deicer that helps activate salt in very cold conditions.

CPS: Schools to remain open despite bitter cold

Chicago Public Schools will be open for classes on Monday and Tuesday next week despite the cold temperatures.

CPS spokesperson Joel Hood said any students who can't make it to school will be given excused absences, but the schools will remain open to give students a warm, safe place to go.

Because of the dangerous cold weather, all schools in the state of Minnesota will be closed Monday. The governor of Wisconsin is considering the same action. The city of Milwaukee has already announced there will be no classes there.

For the latest schools closings in and around Chicago, click here.

Cold poses potential problems for commuters

Getting around on public transportation in the dangerous cold can be a harrowing experience for commuters.

Most Chicagoans know by now how to dress for the cold. But Monday's cold could be the coldest in three decades, not to mention it's the first day back to work for many from a long holiday. And that means extra pressure on the public transportation system.

"Our primary goal is not to leave people on the platforms in these extreme conditions?We do expect that Monday is going to be a tough day for all of us," said Meg Reile, Metra spokesperson.

"It's going to be scary. (You going to do anything different?) Just wear as much as I can, so put on my hat, my gloves, everything," said Matt Radke, Metra passenger.

Metra is using gas and electric heaters-- which look like small fires-- to keep the switchers from freezing, and the agency is stepping up preparations for Monday. Mechanics are preparing spare equipment and extra crews will be on duty Monday. Twenty-four hour maintainers will be working through the weekend to keep the system running smoothly, and wherever possible, they will keep shelters open 24 hours.

CTA officials are also expecting a big spike in ridership Monday. They also are stepping up preparations by checking switches for the tracks and warming buses early.

"We have general winter operations we do to handle snow, ice and sleet, but in case of these bitter cold temperatures, there are extra steps we'll take," said Tammy Chase, CTA spokesperson.

The expected extreme temperatures have some offices opening late on Monday, and others closed entirely. For some, avoiding the cold by staying inside is the best strategy.

"I'm working from home on Monday, not evening going to attempt it," said Dawn Forden, Metra commuter.

Metra warns that it slows down its trains down by 10 mph in conditions of extreme cold. Additionally, passengers tend to stay in their cars or shelters until the last minute, which can also contribute to an overall slowdown for the schedule.