Dangerous windchill begins, may drop to minus 55 degrees

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Residents try to keep warm and dry on North Ridge Boulevard near West Birchwood Avenue in the Rogers Park neighborhood after Chicago more than 3 inches of snow, Monday morning, Jan. 28, 2019. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

The windchill in Chicago began to dip to dangerous levels Tuesday evening.

Temperatures at O’Hare International Airport fell below zero degrees before 6 p.m. Tuesday, and may not rise back above zero until Thursday evening, according to the National Weather Service.

On Wednesday morning, temps will reach “extremely dangerous” levels of 50 to 55 degrees below zero, the weather service is forecasting.

On top of the cold, scattered snow showers fell throughout the day Tuesday, with less than an inch accumulating at O’Hare by 6 p.m. Snow flurries are expected to continue, stopping about 7 a.m. Wednesday, the weather service said. Blowing snow may cause hazardous travel conditions in more open areas outside the city.

Chicago is set to break its lowest recorded temperature of minus 27, which was set on Jan. 20, 1985. The record low temperature for the state, minus 36 degrees on Jan. 5, 1999, will likely be broken in areas west of Fox Valley, weather service said.

“It’s about as bad as it gets in this part of the world,” weather service meteorologist Mark Ratzer said.

The temperature will remain at “life-threatening” levels through Thursday morning, the weather service said. The freezing conditions could cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 10 minutes.

In what the weather service called “the grand finale of the historic Arctic blast” on Twitter Tuesday evening, lighter winds Wednesday night through Thursday morning will help keep temperatures at 30 degrees below zero or lower. The lowest windchill temperature Thursday may be lower than 50 degrees below zero, weather service said. 

Another round of accumulating snow is expected Thursday night, possibly affecting the Friday morning commute as the cold cold temperatures will make road treatments less effective, weather service said.  

Chicago Public Schools canceled Wednesday and Thursday classes due to the dangerous weather.

At Chicago’s two major airports, there were 568 flights canceled due to the weather — 285 at O’Hare and 283 at Midway, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation. On Monday, more than 1,300 had been canceled.

A list of suburban school closings can be found here.

Metra will modify the schedules of most of its lines Wednesday and Thursday due to the expected extreme cold weather.

Customers are advised to expect longer travel times, as trains will operate with restricted speed when temperatures reach zero degrees or lower, Metra said.

All Amtrak services to and from Chicago on Wednesday have been canceled. Only trains that began traveling on Tuesday or earlier will complete their trips to or from Chicago on Wednesday, according to Amtrak.

All short-distance trains and most long-distance service trains will also be canceled Thursday, Amtrak said.

Chicagoans should stay indoors and check on their neighbors for the next two days, city officials said Tuesday.

The city will open 142 public buildings and facilities in the next two days as warming centers.


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