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Return Of Bitter Cold Leaves Chicagoans Doubtful Of Timely Spring Weather

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Updated 02/26/14 – 2:25 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – It has been 50 years since temperatures were this cold this late in the season in Chicago, but here we go again – temperatures near zero for what many Chicagoans are hoping will be the last time this winter.

“I’m definitely tired of it,” said Peter Beckwith of Edgewater, who went jogging Tuesday, and doesn’t expect to again till the end of the week, when temperatures edge a bit closer to normal.

The normal high temperature for late February 38 to 40 degrees, and the normal low is 22 to 24 degrees — which Chicago likely won’t even see as a high until early next week. The average temperature this time of year is 30 to 32 degrees.

However, temperatures won’t get anywhere near the 30s this week. The highest temperature in the forecast is Saturday’s high of 17 degrees. The closest we’ll get to 30 is Monday’s forecast high of 24.

Temperatures overnight dipped as low as 1 degree at O’Hare International Airport early Wednesday morning. That’s just shy of the coldest Feb. 26 on record, when it was 1 below zero on Feb. 26, 1963.

The National Weather Service issued a wind chill advisory for virtually all of the Chicago area Wednesday morning, due to the extreme conditions. Wind chills reached 20 below zero in Rockford, 19 below in Aurora, and 17 below at O’Hare early Wednesday.

Another wind chill advisory will be in effect from midnight Wednesday night through noon Thursday, when wind chills could reach 20 to 30 below.

Although temperatures did not get below zero as expected early Wednesday, subzero temperatures remained a possibility Thursday and Friday mornings. If temperatures reach 6 below zero as expected early Friday, that would be the coldest Feb. 28 on record in Chicago by a significant margin. The current record cold for Feb. 28 is the zero degrees recorded on Feb. 28, 1884.

Neither Beckwith nor others interviewed by WBBM Newsradio held out much hope that spring-like weather will arrive “on schedule” with the arrival of spring in less than a month.

Several of those interviewed by WBBM said they had no choice but to venture out the next few days.

For Kevin Dolan, it’s his 7-year-old chocolate Labrador retriever Scout who makes the walks necessary, although Dolan said he’d make each of them shorter, and walk more briskly.

In the case of a 42-year-old professional bicyclist named Domani, he said he has to train no matter what the weather. Domani said consistent cycling in bitter cold can increase his lung capacity.

Yet another man, named Vince, said the weather has been so cold so many times, “I”m getting used to it. … I actually enjoy the cold weather now.”

And you thought everyone was sick of winter.

The extreme cold this year has been taking a toll on homeowners’ wallets, too.

Nicor spokesawoman Annette Martinez said the utility projects a 26 percent jump in natural gas bills this winter compared to last.

“Last year, the average residential bill for the entire winter heating season – which goes from October to March – was about $527. This year, we’re anticipating that that bill will be about $665,” she said.

David Kolata, with the Citizens Utility Board, said consumers shouldn’t blame Nicor and Peoples Gas for higher bills this year, because they’re legitimately passing along higher wholesale costs.

“No question this has been a very tough winter for consumers,” he said.