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‘Please stay inside’: Chicago prepares for historic cold streak

Snow blankets West Birchwood Avenue in the Rogers Park neighborhood after Chicago, Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Chicago residents are being implored to stay indoors and check in with their neighbors during a historic streak of subzero temperatures expected to ravage the city through Thursday afternoon.

A wind-chill advisory is in effect until 6 p.m. Tuesday, when a more severe wind-chill warning kicks in, lasting through noon Thursday. Temperatures are expected to dip to minus-23 degrees Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, with wind chills ranging from minus-30 to minus-55 degrees.

The city is preparing to open 142 public buildings and facilities on Tuesday and Wednesday as warming centers, where residents can escape the cold, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said at a news conference Tuesday at which he and several members of his administration discussed the city’s preparations.

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“No one in need of a warm place to stay will be turned away. No one,” Emanuel said.

Department of Family and Support Services commissioner Lisa Morrison Butler said vulnerable residents should call 311 if they or someone they know are in danger of succumbing to the cold.

“311 is always the best number to call to find out the closest warming facility or shelter near you,” she said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel (center) and members of his administration discuss city preparations for the looming stretch of subzero temperatures. | Carlos Ballesteros, Sun-Times
Mayor Rahm Emanuel (center) and members of his administration discuss city preparations for the looming stretch of subzero temperatures. | Carlos Ballesteros, Sun-Times

LaTanya McDade, chief education officer for Chicago Public Schools, said all CPS schools will be closed Wednesday, but the district’s central offices will keep regular business hours. CPS also canceled all after-school events and programs Tuesday.

The Chicago Transit Authority will continue to operate, CTA president Dorval Carter said. However, commuters should check bus and train arrival times on the CTA website or mobile phone app so they aren’t waiting outside longer than needed.

“For the most part, our services have been running on time and on schedule … but this kind of weather will present extreme challenges to CTA employees,” he said. “I ask for your support and your patience as we deal with unprecedented weather conditions that we’re going to be operating in,” he said.

Judy Frydland, commissioner of the Buildings Department, warned landlords to provide enough heat in their buildings for all tenants.

Otherwise, she said, “we’ll see you in Circuit Court.”

Carlos Ballesteros is a corps member in Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of issues affecting Chicago’s South and West sides.