UPDATED 02/10/11 11:41 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — The conditions were brutal Thursday morning, and city officials are again warning that being outside for any length of time is dangerous.

As of 11 a.m., temperatures had finally crept past the 0 mark in most places. CBS 2 Meteorologist Megan Glaros reported the mercury read 9 at Midway International Airport, 8 at O’Hare International Airport, and 10 in Gary, but still 0 in DeKalb, and minus 1 in Valparaiso.

But wind chills made conditions far more dangerous and uncomfortable. They still read below zero everywhere.

As of 11:20 a.m., the wind chill was minus 4 at Midway, minus 5 at O’Hare, minus 14 at Valparaiso, and minus 19 at DeKalb.

Earlier in the morning, the temperature was below zero everywhere. The temperature read minus 7 at O’Hare International Airport, minus 4 at Midway International Airport, minus 14 at Aurora, and minus 11 in Joliet as of 5:15 a.m., Glaros reported.

While the winds died down compared with the morning before, but a wind chill advisory was in effect for most of Thursday morning anyway.

By 10:15 a.m., the temperature had picked up from negative territory, but was still only 4 degrees at O’Hare.

CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports in spite of the drop in temperatures, some people were spotted walking around the city Thursday morning. Hopefully, for their own safety and health, they weren’t outside for too long.

The city Department of Family and Support Services reminds residents to call 311 to ask for a well-being check on a neighbor, friend or relative if warranted.

Meanwhile, outreach teams continue to encourage those who do not have a home to take advantage of about 4,000 overnight beds in 60 shelters across the city. There are also six warming centers.

The city Department of Human Services assisted more than 200 people without homes during the cold snap, the department’s Chandra Libby said. But there were still 500 shelter beds that went empty Wednesday night.

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“We’re trying to approach everyone out there; trying to encourage them to come into the shelters; come into the warming center – whatever we need to do to get them out of this bitter cold,” Libby said.

On Wednesday night, CBS 2 found Larry McLaurin and hundreds of others find a warm bed at the Pacific Garden Mission, 1458 S. Canal St.

“As one of the guys who’s been around, we know what to do for it. We know how to accept it; how to embrace it; how to adapt to it. I move around; get around. We know when to come inside,” McLaurin said.

A private agency, Inner Voice, is also out during the cold snap to help homeless families find permanent housing. The agency serves 450 people at any point.

Inner Voice chief executive officer Abdullah Hassan points out that it’s not only adults who are at risk.

“The average age of a homeless person in Chicago is approximately 10 years old,” he said.

To help the homeless find permanent housing, Inner Voice conducts assessments for families needs, and tries to obtain work histories and mental and physical health reports, so as to put each individual family on a plan that serves its needs, Abdullah said.

The city is also looking out for the disabled during the brutal cold snap. Those with disabilities should call 311 to find the nearest warming center, and accessible lift equipment is available for transportation, said Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities Commissioner Karen Tamley.

In addition to the cold, residents and business owners should also be sure sidewalks are clear of snow for the disabled, “particularly people who use wheelchairs or have other mobility disabilities. One of the things that we are really encouraging is both residents and businesses make sure they shovel their sidewalks out front.”

Access ramps onto sidewalks should also be kept clear, Tamley said.

On the roads, Kenny Mack found out the hard way – if you’re heading out when wind chills are below zero, check your gas gauge.

“I was on 111th. I ran out of gas and my man pulled me off the expressway, came and got me some gas,” Mack said. “I’m freezing. I’m going to fill up, and I’m going home to get warm.”

Mack’s uncle, Tony Cannon, came to help him, and Cannon was prepared for the elements.

As to the weather, there is relief in sight. The forecast high for Thursday is only 15, but it jumps to 27 on Friday. The temperatures are expected to crack the freezing mark over the weekend, and top out at a balmy 41 degrees on Wednesday of next week.

Not Setting Any Records
Uncomfortable though conditions now may be, they are far from setting any records for cold. But this is the coldest it has been for two years.

On Jan. 15, 2009, the high for the day was minus 2, and the overnight low dropped to minus 15.

The following day was equally cold. On the morning of Jan. 16, the actual temperature – not the wind chill – read minus 27 in Joliet and minus 30 in Aurora. The wind chill in Aurora that morning was minus 51.

But in Chicago proper, it’s been far worse. On Jan. 18, 1994, the low for the day in Chicago was minus 21, and the high was only -11.

In December 1983, a brutal cold snap culminated in a frigid Christmas holiday where the temperature did not crack 0 from Dec. 22 until Dec. 26. The low that year was minus 24 on Christmas Eve and minus 17 on Christmas Day, and in a CBS 2 weather forecast at the time, meteorologist Harry Volkman was warning of overnight wind chills of minus 75 and air temperatures of minus 30 in the western suburbs.

But the coldest day ever in Chicago came on Jan. 20, 1985, when the mercury bottomed out at minus 27.

For a list of the coldest days in Chicago history, click here.

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