Chicago breaks record for daily low temperature, Wind Chill Warning in effect

ByABC 7 Eyewitness News Team Coverage WLS logo
Thursday, January 31, 2019
Water main break floods, freezes NW Side streets
As if the freezing cold wasn't enough, a 12-inch water main broke on the far Northwest Side, flooding and freezing streets.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Wednesday brought subzero, record-breaking, dangerously cold temperatures to the Chicago area, which are expected to continue until Thursday evening.

The day's lowest temp recorded was -23 (and -49 wind chills) at O'Hare International Airport, breaking the record for January 30. Wednesday's high of -10, which was recorded at midnight, is one degree shy of the all-time coldest high for the city.

Lows Wednesday night could drop to -27, which would tie the all-time coldest temperature recorded in the city.

A Wind Chill Warning is in effect until 6 p.m. Thursday.

CLICK HERE for our full ABC7 AccuWeather Forecast

Temperatures will rise throughout the night, but will still be frigidly cold. Chicago is expect to easily break the daily record of -12 set in 1985, and temperatures will remain below zero through the day. Snow will develop by evening and 1 to 3 inches could fall Thursday night.

As if the freezing cold wasn't enough, a 12-inch water main broke on the far Northwest Side, flooding and freezing streets.

As if the freezing cold wasn't enough, a 12-inch water main broke around 8 p.m. in the 5400-block of North Nagle on the far northwest side. Water has flooded the street and water department repairmen are at the scene working to fix it. As of 10 p.m. Nagel is shut down between Balmoral and Gregory and expected to remain that way for several hours.

Residents said they looked out their window and saw water rushing down the street. They said they did not hear the break. An 88-year-old woman had to be rescued from inside her home either by her neighbors or by officials, it was not immediately clear.

"The main busted on Nagle in front of my neighbor's house and my cousin and they took in about three feet of water plus, and now the gas company's about to shut their gas off. So they're worried about the pipes freezing," said Derek Hansen, who lives nearby.

Officials are putting down salt in an attempt to deal with the thick ice as best they can. Water has been shut off in the neighborhood.

RELATED: What's open, closed during Chicago's deep freeze

The deep freeze has brought Chicago to a near standstill, closing schools and businesses, suspending mail delivery, halting trains, canceling more than 1,800 flights and knocking out power to thousands of ComEd customers. Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker issued a disaster proclamation for the entire state.

Steam rises off Lake Michigan in Chicago as temps plunge to -23 degrees

Steam rises from a frozen Lake Michigan in Chicago as temperatures plunged to -23 degrees Wednesday morning.

The conditions could result in frostbite in just minutes.

Chicago will offer five warming buses to offer people cover from the weather. Also outreach workers are working around the clock to connect homeless residents with shelter.

RELATED: Find a Chicago area warming center near you

More than 270 warming centers are available throughout the city in every neighborhood. You can find them at libraries, park houses, community centers, police stations and churches.


Metra Electric service will still be suspended Thursday due to the cold, and the shuttle buses provided today will not be running.

Metra is operating all lines on alternate schedules due to the extreme cold. Click here for the extreme weather alternate schedules for every Metra line. The modified schedule will extend through Thursday and could change further depending on conditions.

Metra suspended Metra Electric line service because of wire problems and they hope to have service restored for the Friday morning rush hour. Metra says customers should consider alternate transportation including the Rock Island line or the CTA. Metra Electric service will remain suspended Thursday and the shuttle buses provided for commuters will not be running

Metra said ridership Wednesday was 10 percent of normal.

Amtrak suspended all trains in and out of Chicago Wednesday but some trains will resume Thursday. Some opted for the Greyhound bus to get out of town, but that was also dicey.

Nazarie Burnette arrived in Chicago Tuesday on Amtrak and when his train was canceled he booked a Greyhound to Minneapolis. That was also canceled.

"Hold over, wait over. It's just been bad, man. Just can't travel. Can't go. Everything's canceled," he said.

The extreme cold Wednesday forced mass transit like CTA and Metra to modify their schedules and Amtrak canceled all train service in and out of the city.

The severe cold forced the CTA to run a modified schedule, with trains running less frequently on the Red and Blue lines CTA ridership also slowed to a trickle. The empty or nearly-empty CTA cars were still a welcome sight for freezing passengers, especially those on the way home from an early morning shift.

"Yeah, that wind was really blowing, it was strong, but I am covered up under the blood of Jesus, I am warm, he warms me," said Jeneen Haney, who works at O'Hare.

South Shore Line service is suspended for Wednesday and Thursday due to the extreme weather. Normal service is expected to resume Friday, Feb. 1, with westbound train 102. Click here for more information on the South Shore Line.

Pace, which provides bus service to people with disabilities, canceled their subscription rides - regularly scheduled pickups and drop offs for appointments. Riders who must travel should call Pace to reschedule their appointments for Wednesday and Thursday. Riders should also double check that their destinations are open in the extreme weather.


While most of Chicago stayed inside Wednesday, hospitals are bracing for cold-weather related injuries - from frostbite to falls - as people venture out starting Thursday.

Doctors at Rush University Medical Center saw a small number of cold-related injuries Wednesday. Most people took the advice to stay out of the cold, but doctors continued to warn people to dress appropriately for the weather and avoid time outside, including for exercise.

"With a wind chill of 50 degrees below zero, only five minutes of exposure can lead to tissue damage that is normal in a healthy person," said Dr. Edward Ward.

Doctors are prepared for cold-related problems and injuries to increase Thursday and Friday as people venture out of their homes again. Beside frostbite and respiratory problems, doctors expect more injuries related to slip-and-falls.

In the meantime, Rush is providing breakfast, lunch and dinner for all its employees, allowing staff to park closely in on-site garages, and using a closed hospital wing for employees who need to stay overnight. Beds, linens and toiletries are all provided.

Contact 311 for immediate assistance. The city says no one in need of shelter or help will be turned away.

It's all hands on deck for the Office of Emergency Operations and the workers who make sure power stays on, buildings stay warm, and people stay safe during the polar vortex.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he has directed the Department of Buildings to take immediate action to restore heat at properties in Chicago and the department will work with the Department of Law to file court cases and ask the Circuit Court to appoint a receiver to make emergency repairs.

It was all hands on deck at the city's emergency operations center.

"We're still early on in a dangerous situation for the next 48 hours so we'll be paying close attention to what happens," said OEMC Director Rich Guidice. "Every event is going to be micromanaged to the detail as far as whether it's a fire, or whatever other situation we have going on throughout the city."

Since the courts are closed, the Buildings Department is directing the receiver to make emergency repairs to buildings now and seek reimbursement from the owner once the courts reopen. Inspectors are answering calls coming in from 311.

"If it can be repaired right away they have a list of contractors they work with and they can get out, if it's something that has to be ordered and let's say they can't get to it till tomorrow, the receiver can place the person in a hotel or get them transportation to a family," said Commissioner Judith Frydland, Buildings Department.

WATCH: Chicago is colder than some of coldest places on earth

Chicago is experiencing colder temperatures than some of the coldest places on earth.

In Chicago, Lyft is offering free rides to warming centers using the code CHIJAYDEN19, up to $25 per ride, through Friday.

In this extreme cold, a car without power can be dangerous for motorists.

The Illinois Department of Transportation has increased its highway patrols to help drivers in distress. IDOT Minutemen patrolmen like Ricky Soto will be driving the expressways, especially overnight, to assist any driver in trouble or who may be stranded.

IDOT is also deploying a warming van to respond to people in need.

"It's very important that people stay in their vehicles. We don't want people exiting their vehicles in traffic and especially in conditions like this," said Guy Tridgell, IDOT spokesman.

The Illinois Tollway is also ready for the cold, and is reminding drivers that all oases are open 24 hours and can serve as warming centers.

If you must drive Wednesday and Thursday, be prepared: make sure your tires have enough air, and check your battery and alternator, and make sure you have some blankets and water in your car.


ComEd has been working to restore power to thousands of customers Wednesday morning amid dangerous cold conditions.

As of 9 p.m., ComEd reported that 1,100 customers were without power, the majority of which are in the south and west suburbs. ComEd said power has been restored to approximately 60,000 customers Wednesday.

Customers can text OUT to 26633 or call 1-800-EDISON (1-800-334-7661) to report an outage. Spanish-speaking customers can call 1-800-95-LUCES (1-800-955-8237).

After hours without heat, the McHenry's mayor said power is back on for hundreds of residents. In the meantime, local businesses opened their doors as warming centers to help those without power

With this dangerous cold, residents had to leave their homes to seek shelter. Some people came to the local theatre, which opened as a warming shelter.

ComEd restored power to hundreds of customers in McHenry.

"We reacted fast, made sure we got some help by the local businesses and so forth to get some support for people that are without power or heat," said McHenry Mayor Wayne Jett.

How to prevent frostbite, stay safe while wind chill warnings, advisories are in effect

Temperatures are expected to fall dangerously low Tuesday through Friday, with wind chill advisories and wind chill warnings in effect.


More than 1,800 flights have been cancelled at Chicago's airports. As of 7 p.m., at O'Hare, 1,528 flights were cancelled and 329 flights were cancelled at Midway. Both airports reported delays of less than 15 minutes.

American Airlines said they are experiencing some refueling issues and other airlines may be reporting issues as well.

An American Airlines spokeswoman said, "It's going to be a challenging day at ORD today with the extreme temperatures. Our teams are doing the best they can to get our customers accommodated as safely and quickly as possible."


Chicago Public Schools are closed Wednesday and Thursday due to the cold. CPS buildings are also closed Wednesday and Thursday due to the weather and all after school activities are canceled.

School Closings: Chicago Area Complete List

Some suburban school districts, including Niles and Plainfield, have announced that schools are closed Wednesday and may be closed Thursday as well.


The University of Chicago has canceled all classes and non-essential activities for Wednesday due to the cold.

RELATED: How to keep your pets safe in dangerously cold weather

Veterinary physician Tony Kremer joined ABC7 with his dog Ania with tips to keep pets safe in the cold.


The dangerous deep freeze can also make it difficult to keep your home warm. To avoid a loss in heat experts recommend replacing your furnace filter and keeping vents clear. Also lower blinds and close drapes.

How to keep pipes from freezing in cold weather

Pipes frozen? Follow these tips on how to prevent your pipes from freezing when the temperature drops -- and what to do if your pipes freeze.

Before going to bed, raise your thermostat a few degrees to help offset the inevitable loss of heat. If you have a high-efficiency furnace, clear the intake and exhaust of snow and ice, which could pose a carbon monoxide danger.

To keep your pipes from freezing, experts say to trickle your faucets. If they still freeze, never thaw pipes with an open flame. Use a hairdryer instead.

If you'll be out driving during the deep freeze, experts say to make sure your vehicle is ready for it.

Keep your tank at least half-full, replace the car battery if it's old and add some extra air in your tires.

Officials recommended drivers plan their route in advance and tell others where they are going. Lastly, keep your cell phone charged in case something happens.