Dangerously cold temperatures hit the suburbs
The second half of a brutal one-two punch of winter weather has arrived as dangerously cold conditions that experts describe as "life-threatening" grip the suburbs.
Temperatures in the Chicago Metropolitan area are hovering between 12 degrees below zero to about 20 degrees below zero. Temperatures are expected to fall as low as 15 degrees below on Monday night.
The wind chills this morning are ranging between minus 30 and minus 45 degrees.
"There's no other way to say it -- these are life-threatening conditions," said Edward Fenelon, a National Weather Service meteorologist.
The Arctic blast arrived in the area Sunday night, on the heels of a significant weekend storm that dumped between 6 and 12 inches of snow on the ground and made travel on suburban roads treacherous.
"It's a terrible combination, the significant snow followed by extreme cold, but it's what we're living with right now," Fenelon said.
The cold promises to disrupt a number of aspects of suburban life. Most elementary and high-school districts decided to cancel classes today, which for many students was supposed to be the first day back after winter break. A number of local colleges and universities have also closed for the day, including Oakton Community College, McHenry County College, Harper College, College of Lake County and the College of DuPage.
Schools aren't the only institutions being affected. Some local park districts, including those in Mount Prospect and Schaumburg, have canceled programs today, though their buildings remain open. Garbage pickup has been postponed by a day in some towns, including Arlington Heights, Hoffman Estates and Mount Prospect.
The Cook County Sheriff's Office, meanwhile, announced that visiting hours at the county jail will be suspended today and Tuesday, resuming on Wednesday. A 24-hour hotline, (773) 674-6618, has been activated for friends and family of detainees to call if they have questions.
The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County announced that all its offices and education centers will be closed today, but the 60 forest preserves will remain open. The suggests that winter enthusiasts heed the wind chill advisories and, if possible, stay inside where it is warm and safe.
Metra is posting some minor delays due to the weather as well. Check to see if your train is late by viewing metrarail.com.
If all this seems like overkill, keep in mind that the Chicago area is likely to set new weather records this week. Until now, the coldest high temperature recorded on the date of Jan. 5 was 1 degree below zero, which happened in 1912. The coldest high recorded on Jan. 6 was 4 degrees below zero. Both records stand to be broken, Fenelon said. The coldest high temperature of all time in Chicago was 11 degrees below, which happened on January 18, 1994, and Dec. 24, 1983. That record will probably stand, Fenelon said.
Safety experts say this kind of extreme weather can be particularly harmful to children, the elderly and household pets. Residents are encouraged to stay indoors, if possible, and to keep all pets inside.
"People need to take this kind of weather seriously," Fenelon said.
Suburbanites were already dealing with bad weather before, of course. A snowstorm that began Saturday night made traveling through the area on Sunday a slippery nightmare. Illinois State Police said there were multiple spinouts and crashes on area tollways Sunday, and that excessive speed was a key factor.
"I came in this morning and there were some individuals driving 55 mph, which is much too fast for the conditions we have," Master Sgt. Carlita Joe said Sunday. "Just because a certain limit is posted doesn't mean you have to drive that fast. Slowing down and giving other motorists room will really help you on the roads."
The Kane County Sheriff's Office closed Route 38 between Elburn and Maple Park and Route 30 in the Big Rock area Sunday afternoon because of drifting snow leaving the roads impassable.
"The higher winds are starting to cause roads to drift over and become impassable," Lt. Pat Gengler said in a news release. "We have had reports of groups of cars off the road and disabled on Route 38 west of Elburn and Route 30 near Big Rock. Roadways in the cities may be passable but the roads in the western part of the county may not be. Once these roads drift over and become impassable emergency crews have a very difficult time getting to the motorists and then need plows and tows to help clear the roads. Motorists need to pay attention to the weather warnings these conditions are hazardous."