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Move over ‘Chiberia,’ here comes ‘Wind Chillinois’

Video by Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

As Chicagoans shoveled out Monday morning, and with a deep-freeze around the corner that might crack the coldest temperature ever recorded in Chicago — minus-27 — meteorologists took a few moments to workshop nicknames between forecasts.

“Wind Chillinois” and “Windiana” were favorites at National Weather Service office in Romeoville that serves the Chicago area and Northwest Indiana.

Appropriate monikers, considering the minus-45-to-55 degree wind chills that will settle in beginning late Tuesday and last into Thursday.

“We still have the nickname department working on it,” weather service meteorologist Gino Izzi said Monday morning, noting that one of his colleagues is credited with coining “Chiberia” during the Polar Vortex a few years back.

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Monday’s flurries came overnight and quickly swelled, piling up to 3.1 inches at O’Hare International Airport and 2.9 inches at Midway International Airport by 6 a.m., according to the National Weather Service. In the northwest suburbs, Palatine recorded 5.2 inches.

The city’s coldest recorded temperature — it bears repeating: minus-27 — was set on Jan. 20, 1985.

“We’re going to threaten that temperature Wednesday night into Thursday morning,” Izzi said.

Weather record-keeping in Chicago goes back 138 years.

Video by Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

“It’s just difficult to forecast temperatures that have never occurred before. It’s hard to believe it,” he said.

“Get your shoveling done now, because everything is going to turn to ice,” Izzi said.

“And this temperature, it’s 34 right now downtown, are going to feel like short-sleeves weather compared to what’s coming.”

With those sub-zero temperatures in the forecast, Columbia College Chicago announced it would close at 6 p.m. Tuesday and remain shut down all day Wednesday. The plan is to reopen at 10 a.m. Thursday, but the college “will monitor weather conditions and issue updates as needed,” according to an email from Columbia College President Kwang-Wu Kim.

A woman walks down a sidewalk, Monday morning as the Chicago area experiences a snow storm ahead of brutal cold temperatures later in the week. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times
A woman walks down a sidewalk, Monday morning as the Chicago area experiences a snow storm ahead of brutal cold temperatures later in the week. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

The snow tangled the morning commute as area expressways were quickly covered, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation.

By the end of Monday, the Chicago area will possibly see 4 to 7 inches of snow. The highest accumulation of snowfall, up to 9 inches, is predicted in the northernmost suburbs, close to the Wisconsin border.

The weather service is warning drivers of slick roads throughout Monday, as much of the snowfall is likely to stick given its rapid pace. Drivers are advised to leave earlier and allow extra distance between vehicles.

Cook, Kane, DuPage, Will, Grundy, LaSalle and Kendall counties in Illinois and Lake and Porter counties in northwest Indiana will remain under a winter weather advisory until 6 p.m. Monday, the weather service said.

Travelers in the air have also been slowed down by the current bout of snowfall.

As of 9 a.m., 626 flights at O’Hare and 196 at Midway International Airport were canceled, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation. O’Hare reported delays averaging 62 minutes, while Midway’s delays averaged less than 15 minutes.

Around the same time, the CTA was reporting delays on its Red, Blue and Yellow lines, all because of congestion following mechanical issues on the train, according to alerts from the transit authority.

Southbound Red Line trains were delayed at the Granville station for about 20 minutes as crews tried to reduce congestion. They began running again about 5:50 a.m., according to CTA alerts.

Metra trains were operating with delays ranging from 10 to 20 minutes, the transit agency tweeted.

The Milwaukee-District West line in particular had a sizable amount of hiccups — two trains were canceled amid mechanical problems, according to an alert. And about 7 a.m., an unscheduled train hit a vehicle on the Northwest Side, though no one was injured.

Amtrak has canceled trains or reduced service frequency on multiple lines serving the Chicago area, including its Illini/Saluki, Lincoln, Wolverine and Hiawatha services, according to an alert from the transit agency. Service changes are in effect for Monday through Thursday.

Dozens of Chicago-area schools, mostly in the north and northwest suburbs, were closed Monday as a result of the heavy snowfall. At least five in Chicago were closed, none of them being in the Chicago Public Schools system, which announced on Sunday that classes would remain in session for now.

On Monday afternoon, the city is expected to enjoy highs in the low 30s, though winds will blow as high as 30 mph, the weather service said.

Those relatively balmy temps meant many school kids were spotted sloshing through the snow in sneakers Monday morning.

“It’s not cool to wear boots,” said a crossing guard at Belmont and Sacramento. “I don’t get it,” she added, shaking her head.

A few cyclists wobbled through the snow, but Milwaukee Avenue — known as the Hipster Highway for its throng of regular bicycle commuters — was instead the realm of automobiles Monday morning.

On a side note, two things that won’t be effected by the cold and snow are the hours and operations at Chicago Park District’s Diversey Driving Range — where golfers can hit balls all year — as well as the transportation of inmates at the Cook County Jail, where a series of tunnels allows for easy coming and going all year.

Contributing: Sun-Times Media Wire