Chicago weather: Winter storm, flood alerts issued for parts of area this week

Hundreds of callers complain of no heat in Chicago buildings as bitter cold continues | CPS back in class Wednesday

ByJessica D'Onofrio, Evelyn Holmes, and Rob Hughes and ABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Thursday, January 18, 2024
Snow expected overnight, Winter Storm Watch for NW Indiana
Snow will fall overnight in the Chicago area with a Winter Storm watch in place for Northwest Indiana Thursday.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Winter storm and flood alerts have been issued for parts of the Chicago area this week.

A Winter Storm Watch has been issued for Northwest Indiana's Starke, LaPorte and Porter counties from Thursday at 9 p.m. CST until Saturday at 6 a.m. CST.

That watch is for a lake effect snow band that will get going Thursday night through Friday. Snow rates could be up to 3 inches per hour at times with snow totals above 8 inches in the areas under the watch, said ABC7 Meteorologist Larry Mowry.

A Flood Warning is in effect for Illinois' Will and Grundy counties through Monday at 1:45 p.m. Those counties are also under a Flash Flood Watch until Monday at noon.

A Flash Flood Watch has been issued for an ice jam for the lower Kankakee River from near I-55 downstream to the confluence with the Illinois River, including portions of Grundy and Will counties. The watch will be in effect until further notice, Mowry said.

A Flood Warning has been issued for the Kankakee River until at least next Monday.

A Flood Advisory is in effect for the Illinois River in Ottawa and LaSalle County until further notice.

The ice jam is holding back a significant amount of water, and sudden shifting or breaking of ice may occur at any time over the next several days, which could cause new flooding with limited advanced notice.

Dangerous ice flows or shifting of ice may damage structures along the shore, and additional roads and streets may be flooded.

A Flood Watch has been issued for the Des Plaines River in Riverside until further notice.

RELATED | Chicago weather: Extreme cold stretch not seen in area in nearly 30 years

The Riverside Fire Department said an ice jam on the Des Plaines River continued to grow on Tuesday.

That ice jam now extends from near McCook upstream through Lyons and Riverside to near Salt Creek. Water levels on the Riverside gauge are now exceeding bankfull.

But Riverside, Lyons and Brookfield fire officials told ABC7 that ice jam is not yet a major concern. Right now, they are monitoring the situation.

No homes or businesses have been impacted by the Des Plaines River jam yet.

Cold weather continues into Wednesday

As of Wednesday morning, more than 1,000 calls have been made to 3-1-1 about the winter weather since Jan. 12.

Meanwhile, the Chicago area was off to a cold start again Wednesday.

ABC7 Accuweather Meteorologist Tracy Butler says temperatures will go up into the double digits Wednesday, with highs in the teens after several days of temperatures near and below zero.

Wednesday morning, wind chills were still -10 to -21 in parts of the area. A round of snow is forecast to move in Wednesday night and continue overnight, which could bring around one to three inches of snow.

Chicago's deep freeze may be coming to an end, but the area's arctic temperatures aren't warming up fast enough for some like Suzanne, who recently moved to the city from Amsterdam.

"I was hoping for less cold. I have a little dog, and he was wearing a jacket and boots," Suzanne said.

Sub-zero temperatures began to climb a bit into the double-digits on Wednesday, but it was still just plain miserable for city dwellers and tourists alike.

"Thailand only has one weather. It's hot! Hot weather," said Chinnawnat Watchiaphokhinm who is visiting Chicago from Thailand.

While many did their best to embrace the cold, city officials have continued to warn about the dangers of winter weather.

READ MORE | Brutal cold claims 4 lives, but Chicago-area hospitals don't see rise in weather-related problems

So far, the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office has recorded eight cold-related deaths since November, with four of those occurring in the last five days.

As of Wednesday morning, more than 1,000 calls have been made to 3-1-1 about the winter weather since Jan. 12. That includes 889 calls about no heat, 232 requests for senior well-being checks and 71 inquires about the city's warming centers.

This comes as people who have been living in one senior building in the Woodlawn neighborhood said their units have been cold since Sunday.

The property manager, who didn't return ABC7's messages, is providing tenants with space heaters.

Many furnaces across the area are also failing. Experts recommend changing your air filter, opening all registers and keeping your thermostat at a set temperature.

And the cold has also meant big trouble for pipes and heating systems across the area.

Crews and businesses have been busy responding to frozen and burst pipes. And they're expecting to get even busier after the worst of the cold is over, when now frozen pipes could thaw and then burst.

Disaster response companies like Servpro Team Zubricki has brought in extra personnel from around the country.

"We're seeing anything from high rises to hospitals, hotels, manufacturing facilities," Jennifer Levin with Servpro Team Zubricki said. "We're seeing anything from a sprinkler head to go off to a major flood that's happening with pipe breaks."

The city of Chicago said it has extended its emergency operations weather plan because of the threat of more extreme cold and snow.

"We've decided to extend, Monday morning, perhaps," said Chicago Office of Emergency Management Manager Matthew Doughtie.

With forecasters predicting another blast of snow and cold on the way, efforts to brave the Chicago winter are far from over.

"I cannot wait. I'm from New Mexico, so like, I want that dry desert heat, please," said Chicago resident Alicia Sandoval.

Some rail commuters reported half hour delays Wednesday morning, as the cold weather has not been playing nice with the tracks.

Commuters bundled up tight walking across the Adams Street Bridge Wednesday morning.

"It's the type of cold that freezes your skin, almost. It's a splintering cold where it feels like almost like you have pins or needles pricking you," commuter Karen Holmes said.

While there were fewer temperatures below zero Wednesday morning, the wind chills continue to be dangerous.

Bill Nowicki, commuting from Downers Grove, piled on the layers at Union Station, including a heated vest, since he plans to bike a mile to work in the West Loop.

"So my coldest last year was 5 degrees Fahrenheit, and I thought, 'I'm never gonna break that.' And look at this morning, it's like 2 degrees, so I guess this is the new record today," Nowicki said.

The cold forced rail agencies using flames to heat up switch points. On Wednesday morning, some commuters experienced some delays and others were right on time.

"I really don't worry about it," Metra commuter Edye Deloch-Hughes said. "If it comes, it comes but there has been many times that the Metra has worked well so today was one of those days."

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"It actually wasn't that bad," Metra commuter Erin Crist said. "I was expecting more delays today just based on weather, based on what I heard in the morning. Overall, we were just about 10-15 minutes delayed. I'm still freezing all across the board but overall we got here."

Meanwhile, Chicago Public Schools are back in session Wednesday after CPS canceled classes Tuesday due to the cold weather. Students and parents at South Loop elementary braved the icy chill.

Warming centers open as temperatures drop

Chicago activated its warming centers through Wednesday.

The centers open when temperatures are 32 degrees. They are available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Warming centers include the Inspiration Corporation at 4554 N Broadway #207, La Casa Norte at 1736 W 47th St, Lincoln Park Community Services at 1521 N Sedwick St, the Matthew House at 3722 S Indiana, the Broadway Youth Center at 1023 W. Irving Park Road and the Covenant House at 2934 W. Lake Street.

The Harold Washington Library has opened the lower level as a 24/7 warming center through Jan. 17 for anyone in need. At least 66 new migrant arrivals have been moved there as they await permanent shelter placement.

The Garfield Center at 10 S. Kedzie is open 24 hours to help families find emergency shelter. The Chicago Department of Family & Support Services has also expanded outreach teams to encourage unhoused residents to seek shelter or warming options as they conduct well-being checks.

Warming centers in Cook County will be open 24/7 through Wednesday.

Warming centers in other Chicago-area counties:

Gary, Indiana said it has also opened warming centers, including the Calumet Township Multi-Purpose facility, Ambridge-Mann Community Center, Brother's Keeper, Restoration House Shelter for Men and Serenity House.

Adopt a fire hydrant

With the frigid temperatures this week, it is more important than ever that crews can access the water they need to fight fires and save lives.

A northwest suburban fire department is asking people who live there to adopt a fire hydrant this winter and potentially save a life.

The Arlington Heights Fire Department says after cooking, heating equipment is the second-leading cause of fires nationwide. With the frigid temperatures this week, it is more important than ever that crews can access the water they need to fight fires and save lives.

"When we're responding to a fire, every second counts," said Arlington Heights Fire Division Chief David Roberts.

This time of year, fire hydrants are often buried underneath snow and ice.

"If we can't find the hydrant. We can't use it," said Arlington Heights Fire Deputy Chief Curt Hanselman.

Even if they can find it, it may be entirely blocked by frozen piles.

"It's going to take quite a while to get to this," Hanselman said.

Hanselman said a 3-foot radius around the hydrant is ideal, allowing them to properly connect their hoses if there's a fire.

Arlington Heights has roughly 5,500 fire hydrants. It's an impossible task for fire crews, so that's where the adopt-a-hydrant program comes in.

"Whatever we can do and the public can do to shave a few seconds off of that response and get water onto that fire can mean the difference between life and death," Roberts said.

After the village posted on social media, asking residents to help out, the first person to step up was 4-year-old Henry.

"I said to him, we were outside shoveling my driveway, and I said, 'Hey, you want to help the firefighters?' He says, 'Yeah!'" said Jeff Koffler, Henry's dad.

So they got to work, just like Koffler did when he was a little boy.

"When I was a kid, I adopted a hydrant in Elk Grove. I took it seriously," Koffler said. "He'll have that for the rest of his life, that he adopted the hydrant. It was his."

Pictures of Henry doing his part made it back to the Arlington Heights Fire Department.

"It's heartwarming. It sets a high bar for all of us adults, you know? If that young man can do it, then obviously, the rest of us can," Roberts said.

Henry said he wants to be a firefighter when he grows up.

If you do adopt a hydrant like Henry, you can send an email in to with your name, address and the location of the hydrant, and they'll send you an official adoption certificate for your help.

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