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Chicago Gripped By Record Cold; Schools Closed, Public Transit Delayed

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Snow covers cars in the Humboldt Park neighborhood.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Snow covers cars in the Humboldt Park neighborhood. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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Updated 01/06/14 – 9:11 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – With the Chicago area stuck in a deep freeze through Tuesday, virtually all local schools have canceled classes for Monday, and local officials were advising residents to stay inside as much as possible, as temperatures are expected to remain below zero until Tuesday night.

Shortly before 8 a.m. Monday the temperature at O’Hare International Airport was 16 below zero, which set a record for Jan. 6. The previous record was 14 below zero, set in 1988.

RELATED: Coldest Days Ever In Chicago

“It is important to keep in mind – with the frigid temperatures, blowing winds, snow accumulation – that everyday activities may not be feasible. If you can stay indoors, please do so,” Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications director Gary Schenkel said Sunday.

The temperature was around 2 below zero at midnight, and has only continued getting colder ever since. As of 7 a.m., the temperature at O’Hare was 15 below zero, and wasn’t expected to get much better than that the rest of the day. Temperatures likely will stay in the double digits below zero all day, and won’t rise to the single negative digits until sometime Tuesday morning. The mercury won’t rise above zero until late Tuesday night or very early Wednesday morning.

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The National Weather Service has issued a wind chill warning through noon Tuesday, as wind chills could reach as low as 50 below zero Monday morning and afternoon, and again early Tuesday.

“These forecast wind chills are the lowest in nearly 20 years,” according to the National Weather Service.

Anyone who does have to go outside on Monday or Tuesday should dress in layers, and make sure no skin is exposed to the cold. Hypothermia and frostbite can set in after only a few minutes in such frigid conditions.

After initially planning to be open for students on Monday, Chicago Public Schools officials backtracked Sunday afternoon, informing parents by robo calls that classes would be canceled on Monday.

“The safety and well-being of our students is paramount,” said CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett in a news release. “Given, the dangerously cold temperatures and high-winds, it is in the best interest of our students for schools to be closed on Monday.”

Initially, CPS informed parents Friday that schools would be open on Monday, despite the cold; although parents would not have been required to send their kids to class. It would have been considered an excused absence.

However, after several more inches of snow fell on the city Saturday and Sunday, CPS officials decided to cancel classes for Monday.

“Being outside in arctic temperatures with an extremely low wind chill factor can be dangerous even for a short time. In addition, the expected high winds combined with an additional 10 inches or more of snow that has fallen in the last 24 hours has caused a further deterioration of conditions,” CPS said in a news release.

Virtually every public and private school and college in the Chicago area has cancelled classes on Monday — including all Catholic elementary schools in Cook and Lake counties, the City Colleges of Chicago, DePaul University, Northwestern University, Columbia College, Robert Morris University, John Marshall Law School, and the University of Chicago.

For a full list of school closings in the Chicago area, click here.

Many government offices also are closed on Monday, including all Illinois Secretary of State facilities. However, many public buildings in Chicago will be open as warming centers, including public libraries, police stations, and many park district fieldhouses.

To find a warming center near you, call 311.

After nearly a foot of snow fell in Chicago on Saturday and Sunday – on top of up to a foot of snow already on the ground from last week – many side streets were still snowed under early Monday.

Even many main streets were still slick with snow and ice, causing delays for CTA buses on several routes. Many CTA trains also were being delayed by the frigid and windy conditions.

“Things that we we’ve experienced in these extreme temperatures can be switching problems where tracks merge,” said CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase. “Some of those switches will freeze up. That’s an issue. Another issue that we’re on top of is making sure that all of our rail cars and all of our buses are heated up, and all heaters are working, keeping those customers warm.”

In Northwest Indiana, parts of Interstate 94 and Interstate 65 have been closed to traffic, due to blowing snow creating dangerous driving conditions. I-65 was closed between Gary and Lafayette; I-94 was closed between Michigan City and the Indiana-Illinois state line.

“Really, the only vehicles that need to be on the roadways right now are snow plows, and emergency vehicles, until further notice; just because the weather conditions and road conditions are just that severe,” said Lowell Fire Chief Clint Gorball.

Several counties in northwest Indiana have declared a state of emergency due to the cold and blowing snow, and have advised local residents to stay indoors.

All commuter rail service on the South Shore Line also has been canceled on Monday, due to the extreme cold.

The Brookfield Zoo, the Adler Planetarium, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Museum of Science and Industry also will be closed Monday. The Field Museum was open on Monday, with free basic admission for Illinois residents; however, the Crown Family PlayLab was closed.

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