The typical exercise of bundling up for winter won’t cut it on Thursday.
It’s time to break out the long underwear and the electric gloves, for what is expected to go down as the coldest day in more than a decade.
The National Weather Service has issued a wind chill warning until noon Friday. The forecast high for Thursday is expected to linger in the negative range at -2, dropping to -15 overnight. Strong northwest winds are producing wind chill factors of -25 to -40.
CBS 2’s Ed Curran says as of 5 a.m., it was -7 at O’Hare International Airport and -5 at Midway Airport. In Waukegan it was -9, in Joliet it was -11, and in Aurora, the mercury was reading -20.
But with winds of 14 mph at O’Hare wind chills were far more brutal, at a reading of -28 at O’Hare, -26 in Joliet, -33 in DeKalb, and -42 in Aurora.
As CBS 2’s Joanie Lum reports, the temperatures could result in frostbite or hypothermia and may even lead to death if precautions are not taken.
The last time the low was colder than -10 was Jan. 5, 1999, when it was a bone-chilling -16. Highs Thursday afternoon may also remain just below zero. If the high fails to reach zero, it would be the first time since Feb. 3, 1996, when the high was -5.
On Wednesday night, CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot tagged along with city Department of Family Support Services Commissioner Mary Ellen Caron, who took to the streets Wednesday night. She wanted to persuade people to come in for the night – at least until Friday.
Some people do not like the idea of going to a shelter, but Caron was able to convince some of them that the weather was dangerous.
“We are very concerned about the cold right now, and just getting people into warm places for tonight,” Caron said, “and so that’s is our main purpose for being down here, and for hopefully moving people into shelters.”
“Everybody homeless should go and try to get themselves together, and it’s cold out here tonight, and I hope everybody gets a shelter tonight,” said Fonta Wright, who is homeless. “I hope everybody goes inside tonight, because it’s going to be too cold to be hanging out.”
Wright himself went to a shelter Wednesday night, and said he would probably do the same on Thursday night.
Caron said the shelters will not close in the morning as they usually do.
Additionally, several schools are closed throughout the Chicago area, although Chicago Public Schools remain open.
Meanwhile, city health officials are also issuing reminders of the warning signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
When exposed to the extreme cold, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. That’s when hypothermia can set in.
“People should notice the change in their mental status – confused, disoriented, almost like they’re drunk – but they haven’t had anything to drink,” said Cmsr. Dr. Terry Mason, Chicago Department of Public Health.
Some other warning signs of hypothermia are drowsiness, confusion and memory loss.
“The main thing we want to make sure is that seniors, children – the extremes of ages are the ones that are very, very vulnerable to this – so, we want to make sure that they are well-protected and supervised,” Mason said.
Warning signs for hypothermia in an infant are bright red, cold skin and a child with very low energy. Anyone with a temperature below 95 degrees should get medical help right away because a body temperature that low is an emergency situation.
While this will likely be the coldest day in more than a decade, it is not close to setting a record. On Jan. 18, 1994, the low for the day in Chicago was -21, and the high was only -11.
In December 1983, a brutal cold snap culminated in a frigid Christmas holiday where the temperature did not crack 0 from Dec. 22 until Dec. 26. The low that year was -24 on Christmas Eve and -17 on Christmas Day, and in a CBS 2 weather forecast at the time, meteorologist Harry Volkman was warning of overnight wind chills of -75 and air temperatures of -30 in the western suburbs.
But the coldest day ever in Chicago came on Jan. 20, 1985, when the mercury bottomed out at -27.