Even seasoned Chicagoans struggle in record-breaking cold - New York News

Even seasoned Chicagoans struggle in record-breaking cold

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High winds blowing back the snow makes you feel like you are just spinning your wheels. (marvinoj) High winds blowing back the snow makes you feel like you are just spinning your wheels. (marvinoj)
CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

Strong winds and record cold plunged Chicago into a dangerous deep freeze Monday morning, closing highways and causing delays on the CTA and Metra.

The temperature at O'Hare Airport hit minus-16 at 7:51 a.m., and wind chills dropped to minus-42 as Chicago turned into "Chi-Beria." According to the National Weather Service, Chicago has already seen its high temperature for the day of -3.

Weather tools: Forecast | Interactive Radar | Watches & Warnings

City officials did not mince words in warning the public of the extreme weather.

"If you can stay indoors. Please do so," said Gary Schenkel, executive director of the city's Office of Emergency Management and Communications. "Everyday activities may not be feasible."

Travel was certainly not easy. More than 1,600 flights had been canceled at O'Hare as of 10:30 a.m., and flights are delayed an average 40 minutes, according to the city's Department of Aviation.

More than 85 flights were canceled at Midway, and flights were delayed an average of 20 minutes, the department said.

The roads are not faring any better than the air — AAA has been inundated with weather-related calls, according to spokesperson Beth Mosher. The organization has been receiving about 650 calls per hour, mostly about dead batteries and frozen locks, she said. 200 calls an hour is above average.

"We've never seen anything like it," Mosher said, adding that AAA is handling emergency situations first. "If you have a dead battery in your car but you're sitting warmly in your home, we will get to you, but it probably won't be today."

Commuter train service along the South Shore Line is suspended on Monday, according to the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District. Ticket offices will also be closed.

Metra faced its own slew of issues Monday morning — in addition to delays across the system due to switching problems caused by the cold weather, a Milwaukee North Line train clipped a semi-truck in Niles. Three people were hospitalized with minor injuries, according to Metra.

A few hours later, a Metra Rock Island District train struck a bumping post at the LaSalle Street Station in the Loop. Four people were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries, according to Chicago Police.

On the CTA front, Purple Line service was shut down for about an hour and caused delays on multiple other train lines during the morning commute, according to CTA spokesman Steve Mayberry.

Purple, Blue, Red, Brown, Orange and Green line trains are now operating with delays, Mayberry added. He said switching problems were the most common issue associated with the cold weather, and estimated average delays could range from 10 to 15 minutes.

While buses and trains are operating on a regular weekday service schedule, Mayberry said riders should allow extra travel time because the extreme weather could continue to cause delays.

Amtrak issued a service alert, urging passengers to consider deferring travel plans or confirm their train's status. Significant delays and cancellations are likely, a statement from Amtrak said.

The following Chicago Hub Services are canceled: Lincoln Service Trains 300, 301 and 305; Hiawatha Service Trains 329, 332, 333, 336, 337 and 340; Wolverine Service Trains 352 and 353; Carl Sandburg Trains 381 and 382; Pere Marquette Train 371; Saluki Trains 391 and 392.

Amtrak also said these National Network Services will be canceled on Monday: Empire Builder Trains 7/27/807 Chicago to Whitefish, Mont.; Lake Shore Limited Trains 48 and 448 from Chicago to New York/Boston;Lake Shore Limited Trains 49 and 449 from New York/Boston to Chicago.

Amtrak also cancelled more than a dozen trains out of Union Station due to the weather.

Officials said it will bring more of its routes on line tomorrow, but some delays are epexcted to carry through Wednesday.

Garbage and recycling collection in Chicago was suspended for Monday, but was expected to resume Tuesday.

Chicago Public Schools students got the day off because of the cold. CPS officials originally gave parents the option to send their children to school or keep them home, but reversed course Sunday afternoon. The Chicago Teachers Union had issued a statement calling for classes to be canceled.

The University of Chicago, DePaul University and Northwestern University are closed Monday; Loyola University planned to be open. Catholic elementary schools in Cook and Lake counties will be closed Monday.

Many adults will not have to take off their pajamas all day as some companies, including the Chicago Sun-Times, are allowing employees to work from home. Nurses, doctors, paramedics, police and other emergency workers aren't so lucky. Supermarket and other retail workers will have to brave the cold to get to their jobs. Abt, an electronics and appliances store, canceled all deliveries Monday.

Brookfield Zoo, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Adler Planetarium, and the Shedd Aquarium will be closed on Monday. Lincoln Park Zoo will have abbreviated hours and the Field Museum will remain open with free basic admission.

All 18 Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago are closed Monday, as are all Chicago YMCA membership centers.

Cook County Circuit Courts are open Monday, but detainees held in the Cook County Jail won't be taken to their scheduled court appearances, except for those scheduled to appear at the Leighton Criminal Court Building at 2600 S. California Avenue in Chicago, according to an order from Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart announced that inmates who were scheduled for release Monday, but have no warm place to go, will be allowed to postpone discharge until the weather warms up. Visitation at the jail was suspended Monday and Tuesday.

For the city's homeless population, remaining outdoors could be fatal. Pacific Garden Mission, the city's largest homeless shelter, expects to break its record of overnight visitors, 1,016, which was set a few days ago.

"We will set up mats on the ground and use every available space we can," said Phil Kwiatkowski, president of the mission.

Six community service centers and six senior centers in Chicago will be open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Tuesday to help those seeking refuge from the bitter cold. Garfield Center, 10 S. Kedzie Ave., is the lone site open 24 hours every day. Anyone seeking respite should call 311, said Evelyn Diaz, commissioner of the Department of Family and Support Services.

"No one will be turned away who needs shelter," Diaz said, noting that social workers will be dispatched to areas where the homeless are known to congregate to persuade them to come inside.

"We can't legally, physically remove somebody from their locations if they refuse to go," Diaz said. "If somebody refuses to leave, no matter what, we will know where they are, we will keep close tabs on them."

Additionally, various municipalities throughout Cook County having also opened warming centers for residents seeking shelter.

FOX 32 contributed to this report.

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