Cold Wednesday morning? This morning could be even colder
Wednesday morning was bad. This morning could be worse.
Temperatures dropped to minus 23 Wednesday morning, and they could hit minus 27 early this morning with fierce wind chills timed for the morning rush, the National Weather Service says.
Some relief will follow with the high climbing to 2 during the day, but most schools will remain closed and authorities are urging the public to work from home and postpone unnecessary travel.
It's even too cold for the U.S. Postal Service, which is suspending deliveries today.
Metra remains on a curtailed schedule with no late-night trains and no Metra Electric service. A spokeswoman said 90 percent of riders stayed away Wednesday.
Those who rode varied from stoic to gleeful as temperatures approached the minus 27 Chicago record, set on Jan. 20, 1985.
"I enjoy going out in it. It's a challenge. I embrace it," Steve Sarussi of Arlington Heights said, standing on the platform at the Arlington Heights Metra station Wednesday morning as the mist from his breath turned to frost on his face and lashes.
Bundled with layers of clothing, Joanne Masters of Arlington Heights was headed for the 7:30 a.m. train to Chicago Wednesday for her job as a Realtor.
She saw no reason not to go to work.
"I think they're making it a bigger deal than it is," she said. "It is cold and I feel sorry for pets and I feel sorry for people that work outside, but when you're just going on a train and to work, it's fine. I'm worried about my walk from the train to my office. But it's fine."
Normalcy returns Friday with January in the rearview mirror and temperatures in the 20s before a weekend upswing approaching 50 -- at least 70 degrees warmer than it will be early today.
The cold spell turned much of the area into a virtual ghost town, with light traffic, few shoppers and many cancellations -- including "Disney on Ice."
Amtrak suspended service to Chicago. Airlines canceled 1,529 flights at O'Hare and 329 at Midway as of Wednesday evening while the Chicago Department of Aviation pushed free hot chocolate on unfortunate passengers in the arrivals area.
The aviation department increased staffing and stocked up on the essentials.
"The airports are fully stocked with over 300,000 gallons of de-icing fluid and thousands of tons of salt," spokeswoman Karen Pride said.
Across the Midwest, temperatures were lower than on Alaska's North Slope in many places, bottoming out at minus 48 at North Camp, Minnesota.
Two deaths in the Detroit area, one in Milwaukee and one in Minnesota were blamed on the cold.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker proclaimed a statewide disaster, which frees more resources to help local communities, and urged anyone in need to check www2.illinois.gov for a link to a list of warming centers.
Those at home found ice on the inside of windows and doors as well as Facebook full of people tossing hot water into the air outdoors to watch it turn instantly to snow.
Many Metra passengers heeded warnings Wednesday. "Our ridership was 10 percent of what we normally carry," Thomas-Reile said. "Most trains were carrying under 100 people."
Typically, Metra conveys 145,000 people each weekday.
Outbound Metra trains will not run after 10:40 p.m. today, officials said, and the last scheduled inbound trains will arrive in Chicago by 10:49 p.m.
"We don't want to have anyone stranded and not have a rescue train available to get them," Metra spokeswoman Meg Thomas-Reile said.
Arlington Heights resident Shannon Braniff, who's pregnant and expected to deliver in five weeks, headed to Chicago for work Wednesday morning -- and then planned to stay there.
"I love my job and I want to be there," the well-bundled Braniff said. "I'm staying overnight two nights -- tonight and tomorrow night -- so I just want to get there."
At Naperville, the train station's usual afternoon rush was nonexistent.
"It wasn't too bad," said Chris Cobb of Bolingbrook of his commute. His secret? "Lots of layers."
• Daily Herald staff writer Lee Filas and The Washington Post contributed to this report.