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EDITORIAL: ‘Chiberia’ jokes aside, this cold snap’s no laughing matter

A man walks down a snow covered road this week. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Fellow Chicagoans, let’s look out for each other.

Yes, it’s Chicago in January. Cold weather, in the teens and single digits, is par for the course. In Chiberia, everyone typically bundles up and heads out to conduct business as usual.

But now we’re in for even worse than the usual, the weather folks tell us, with record-breaking sub-zero temperatures that could plummet mid-week and approach the record of minus-27 set back on Jan. 20, 1985.

EDITORIAL

Intense cold like that is dangerous. No wonder city officials are recommending that residents limit their time outside, among other tips. Already this winter, at least 19 people in Cook County have died from cold exposure, the Cook County medical examiner’s office recently reported.

The elderly can be especially vulnerable to extremes of temperature. A 93-year-old woman from Harvey, an 82-year-old woman in Beverly, an 88-year-old woman from Burbank and other seniors were among this winter’s cold victims, according to the medical examiner. And remember that most of those who died during the infamous 1995 heat wave were elderly residents who couldn’t afford air conditioning.

Take a minute to check on friends and neighbors, especially seniors. You can also call 3-1-1 and request a wellness check.

“We’re definitely telling people to look out for each other,” Cristina Villareal, spokesperson for the city’s Department of Family and Support Services, told us. “Call if you’re concerned about a neighbor, or if you see a homeless person on the street whom you’re concerned about.”

Residents can call 3-1-1 to locate or be transported to the nearest warming center, and also to report landlords who fail to provide adequate heat. (Under city ordinance, the temperature inside rental units between Sept. 15 and June 1 must be 68 degrees between 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 p.m., and 66 degrees from 10:30 p.m. overnight until 8:30 a.m.)

“Basically, if you have a question, call 3-1-1,” Villareal said.

The department operates six warming centers, and four of them will be open until 8 p.m.: Englewood, 1140 W. 79th St.; North, 845 W. Wilson Ave.; South Chicago, 8650 S. Commercial Ave.; and Trina Davila, 4340 W. North Ave. Two will be open 24 hours: Garfield, 10 S. Kedzie Ave., and King, 4314 S. Cottage Grove.

Senior centers, Park District field houses, libraries and police stations also operate as warming centers.

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