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Chiberia Part 2: Deep Freeze To Last Through Wednesday

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Updated 01/27/14 – 10:58 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – Temperatures more suited for the North Pole are returning to the Chicago area, and will leave the region in a deep freeze for the next 2 ½ days, similar to the arctic blast we endured three weeks ago.

As of 7 a.m., the official temperature in Chicago was zero at O’Hare International Airport, and will continue dropping throughout the day and night, reaching as low as 18 below zero by early Tuesday morning. By 9 a.m., the mercury dipped to 3 below at O’Hare.

Wind chills could range from 25 to 40 below during the next 2 ½ days. Temperatures likely won’t rise above zero until Wednesday morning or afternoon. As a result, the National Weather Service has issued a wind chill warning for the Chicago area through 9 a.m. on Wednesday.

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The wind chill could reach between 25 and 25 below zero Monday morning and afternoon, 30 to 45 below zero Monday night through Tuesday morning, and up to 30 below Tuesday night through Wednesday morning.

The Chicago Public Schools and most other Chicago area school districts were closed on Monday. Classes also were cancelled at CPS and many other districts on Tuesday.

In addition, the high winds could lead to blowing and drifting snow that could create blizzard conditions in open areas. Such was the case along stretches of I-55 and I-80 overnight. Parts of both interstates were closed for part of Sunday night, due to blizzard conditions. Illinois State Police reopened both highways later Sunday night, but advised motorists the roads were impassable.

Meantime, along I-57 in Kankakee and Iroquois counties, the road was covered in snow and hazardous for drivers. State Police said more than 80 vehicles were stuck in ditches in those two counties, and more than 200 motorists were using warming centers in Ashkum and Clifton.

The northbound and southbound lanes of I-57 were closed near Manteno early Monday, due to whiteout conditions. State troopers were stopping traffic on I-57 to remove stranded vehicles that posed a hazard on the highway. State police said hazardous conditions due to high winds and low temperatures likely would continue through Tuesday.

A Greyhound bus bound for Chicago was among the vehicles that ended up stuck in the snowy median. Passengers eventually were evacuated from the bus, and taken to the warmth of a nearby hotel.

Truck driver Ron Mahalko heeded police advice to avoid the roads early Monday as high winds were creating whiteout conditions before dawn. He pulled over near University Park, until conditions improved.

“It’s insane to be on the road if you have whiteout conditions. You can’t see the traffic coming, so … what I like to do is just pull off the first chance I get,” he said.

Tow truck drivers spent several hours in the brutal conditions, helping drivers who got stranded in the blowing snow.

Meantime, to help residents cope with the severe cold, Chicago city officials have extended hours at warming centers, and city departments have been working with homeless shelters to provide 24-hour access to those in need.

All six of the city’s Department of Family and Support Services community centers will operate from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday and Tuesday.

• Englewood Center, 1140 W. 79th Street, Chicago, IL 60620
• Garfield Center, 10 S. Kedzie Avenue, Chicago, IL 60612
• King Center, 4314 S. Cottage Grove, Chicago, IL 60653
• North Area, 845 W. Wilson Avenue, Chicago, IL 60640
• South Chicago, 8650 S. Commercial Avenue, Chicago, IL 60617
• Trina Davila, 4357 W. Armitage Avenue, Chicago, IL 60639

All six regional senior centers also will serve as warming centers for extended hours on Monday and Tuesday, and will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. both days:

• Southeast Senior Center, 1767 E. 79th Street, Chicago, IL 60649, 312-747-0189
• Southwest Senior Center, 6117 S. Kedzie Avenue, Chicago, IL 60629, 312-747-0440
• Northeast Senior Center, 2019 W. Lawrence Avenue, Chicago, IL 60625, 312-744-0784
• Northwest Senior Center, 3160 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago, IL 60618, 312-744-6681
• Central West Senior Center, 2102 W. Ogden Avenue, Chicago, IL 60612, 312-746-5300
• Renaissance Court Senior Center, 78 E. Washington St, Chicago, IL 60602, 312-744-4550

Many other city buildings serve as warming centers during normal operating hours, including public libraries, police stations, and park district facilities. To find a warming center near you, call 311, or click here.

If you must go outside, make sure to wear several layers of warm clothing, and cover any exposed skin, as prolonged exposure to such cold temperatures can lead to frostbite. Symptoms of frostbite include pain, numbness, burning, and change of skin color.

While several delays were reported during the morning rush on Metra, the problems did not rise to the extent of three weeks ago, when some trains ran two hours or more behind schedule, due to frozen tracks and switches.

Metra said commuters should plan for extra travel time on Monday, including slower boarding times. Trains also might be forced to go slower than normal, to reduce stress on tracks already affected by the severe cold.

The CTA also was warning of possible delays for its trains. Including possible problems with tracks and switches, the CTA said doors to trains occasionally do not open and close properly in the extreme cold.

Amtrak also was running on a modified schedule on Monday, due to the cold.

The extreme cold and high winds also were prompting airlines to cancel hundreds of flights at O’Hare and Midway. At O’Hare International Airport, more than 435 flights had been cancelled as of Monday morning. At Midway International Airport, more than 80 flights had been cancelled.

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