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Illinois grapples with first day of bitter temperatures

Published: Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014 11:38 p.m. CDT
Caption
(AP photo)
A man crosses a snowy street Sunday in downtown Chicago . Sunday night temperatures will drastically drop to about minus 20 degrees.

CHICAGO – Illinois residents braced Sunday for a double whammy of heavy snow and bitterly cold temperatures, with authorities warning people to stay indoors and off the roads.

Five to 9 inches fell in the Chicago area by Sunday afternoon, while the St. Louis area had about a foot of snow and northern Indiana had at least 8 inches. Central Illinois was bracing for 8 to 10 inches, and southern Michigan could see up to 15 inches.

Brisk winds caused whiteout conditions in some areas, and drifting snow forced the closure of some roadways in central Illinois.

The danger won’t end Monday, with temperatures expected to plummet to minus 15 degrees overnight Sunday and hover there during the day. Wind chills of 30 to 50 degrees below zero were possible Monday, National Weather Service meteorologist Ed Fenelon said.

“Everyday activities may not be feasible,” Gary Schenkel, executive director of Chicago’s Emergency Management Communication, warned Sunday. “If you can stay indoors, please do so.”

Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider was urging motorists to stay home and off the roads. She said those who must travel should let family members know their plans in case of emergencies.

Many of the state’s schools and colleges canceled Monday classes. Late in the day Sunday – and after weathering criticism from the Chicago Teachers Union – officials in Chicago Public Schools said it would be closed. They cited the best interest of students.

Hours at the city’s warming centers will be extended on Monday, and officials will be out encouraging the homeless to go to shelters.

“No one will be turned away,” Department of Family and Support Services Commissioner Evelyn Diaz said.

Aviation officials said about 1,300 flights were canceled at O’Hare and Midway international airports.

Across the state, police and fire departments assigned extra officers to shifts over the next several days. Morton Grove firefighter Joe Fasolo said his department was using a squad truck instead of a fire engine to respond to calls because the fire truck’s water could easily freeze.

In Mount Prospect, homeowner Steve White spent part of Sunday raking his roof to prevent icicles.

Freeport farmer Greg Miller has 40 sheep tucked into his barn, but plans to check every three or four hours to see if any lambs have been born. If so, he’ll hurry them into the barn’s warm nursery, he told the (Freeport) Journal-Standard.

Miller said he also added extra feed, bedding and shelter for his cattle, and will try to create wind breaks.

“Livestock can take the cold, but not the wind and moisture,” he said, adding that keeping the water troughs from freezing over will be his biggest challenge.

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Associated Press writer Tammy Webber contributed to this report.

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