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Temperatures to plunge after near-record warmth making for icy evening commute

Ice builds up along the shore of Lake Michigan on January 3, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. Record cold temperatures are gripping much of the U.S. and are being blamed on several deaths over the past week. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

After a brief respite from one of the most brutal cold-spells in Chicago history, the bitter cold, freezing rain, sleet and snow are coming back.

About 12:40 p.m., the temperature at O’Hare International Airport reached 58, just 3 degrees shy of the record high temperature for Jan. 11 of 61 degrees, which was set in 1880, according to the National Weather Service in Romeoville. 

Unfortunately, the warm spell won’t last long, as temperatures are expected to plunge Thursday night after two days of 50-degree weather, the weather service said.

“We’re going to see a real, real sharp temperature drop coming in toward the tail end of the evening rush hour for Chicago,” said Edward Fenelon, a meteorologist for the weather service.

By 9 p.m., the weather service expects it to be just 25 degrees at O’Hare.

Chicago can expect any water on the ground from today’s rain to flash freeze this evening, according to Fenelon. 

“Any wet areas that are not treated before then are going to become very slick,” Fenelon said.

According to the weather service, the average high temperature for Jan. 11 is just 31 degrees. The record high for the month was set on Jan. 29, 2013, when the temperature reached 63 degrees.

Central and northeast Illinois will be under a winter weather advisory from 6 p.m. until midnight, with freezing rain, snow and sleet expected, the weather service said. Icy conditions will cover the ground with a light glaze, causing slippery sidewalks and potentially hazardous roads.

Strong wind gusts could also be possible Thursday afternoon and evening.

The mercury could fall as low as 14 degrees overnight, the weather service said. A high of 22 was expected Friday before an overnight low of 8 degrees Friday night as lake effect snow could lead to snow showers in the area.