Polar Blast Makes For Painful Return From Holiday Break

CHICAGO (CBS) — If you’re heading back to work Tuesday after the holiday break, get ready for a dual shock; first, getting back to the grind, and second an extremely cold commute.

Metra is working to keep things moving throughout the deep freeze, with temperatures as cold as 15 below zero to start the morning.

While many Metra stations have warming areas for riders, others leave commuters out in the cold, potentially for longer than expected.

Some lines could see delays as crews struggle to keep Metra’s 460 rail switches working amid the arctic conditions.

For many switches, crews use flames to heat switches to make sure they don’t freeze. The controlled fires also melt icy debris.

Milwaukee West Line trains had cold weather switch and signal issues as recently as last week.

The prolonged polar blast in recent days is making for an especially brutal return to work, even if the train ride is smooth.

“I go to City Hall. I walk to City Hall, so it’s about a mile and a quarter. So that, too, is a wakeup call,” Chuck Fredrickson said as he was waiting to catch a Metra train in Franklin Park. “I’ve also been stuck on the trains when those switches have locked. So when you see those flames, you know they’re out there working, and they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing.”

As of 7 a.m., Metra was reporting only a handful of delays.

Metra officials suggested using stations with heated waiting areas to avoid prolonged exposure to the extreme cold.