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Polar vortex brings brutal cold, Wind Chill Advisory in effect

The Chicago area is bracing for historic cold this week as frigid temperatures begin to drop Tuesday.

A Wind Chill Advisory went into effect for the Chicago area at 4 a.m. and will be in effect until 6 p.m. Tuesday, when it will be upgraded to a Wind Chill Warning. The Wind Chill Warning will remain in effect until noon on Thursday.

On Tuesday, wind chills are expected to be between -15 to -30, with a high of 3 degrees and a low of -22, and it will only get colder from there. Wednesday’s expected high -13, and wind chills will make it feel like as much as 50 degrees below. It has the potential to be the second-coldest day in Chicago history.

The record for the coldest day in Chicago was December 24, 1983, with an average temperature of -18 degrees recorded at O’Hare. Wednesday could be as cold as -15.5 or -16, which could make it the second or third coldest day in Chicago’s recorded history.

The coldest temperature ever recorded in Chicago was -27 on January 20, 1985. The coldest high temperature ever recorded in Chicago was -11 on Dec. 24, 1983 and Jan. 18, 1994.

Chicago Public Schools announced they will close schools Wednesday due to the cold. The temperatures could present a hazard for children traveling to and from school, CPS said. CPS buildings will also be closed Wednesday due to the weather and all after school activities are canceled.

School Closings: Chicago Area Complete List

CPS schools will be open Tuesday. The district will make a decision about classes Thursday on Wednesday afternoon.

The snow created significant problems at Chicago’s airports Monday, with more than,1,400 flight cancellations. On Tuesday, the cold cold is hampering air travel, with 157 flight cancellations at O’Hare and 262 at Midway as of 4:37 a.m.

Dozens of warming shelters in the city and throughout Cook County have been opened as an additional safety precaution. Officials say everyone should limit their outdoor exposure over the next few days.

The city has also added warming buses on the streets to encourage the city’s most vulnerable to be safe.

Metra said all lines will operate on alternate schedules due to the extreme cold on Wednesday. Click here for the extreme weather alternate schedules for every Metra line.

The South Shore Line said trains would operate on a reduced scheduled Wednesday and Thursday due to the extreme weather. They will also bus passengers from South Bend to Michigan City from Tuesday through Friday morning. Click here for more information and to view the modified schedule.

Northwestern University will be closed from 8 p.m. Tuesday to 12 p.m. Thursday due to the extreme cold. The university will continue to provide “essential services” including policing, facilities management and residence hall dining.

Columbia College Chicago announced it will close Tuesday evening through Wednesday due to the weather. The closure begins at 6 p.m. Tuesday through all of Wednesday and applies to all academic and business operations of the campus.

The Lincoln Park Zoo will close early Tuesday, at 3 p.m., and remain closed Wednesday for the safety of animals and visitors, except for several species acclimated to the climate, like polar bears.


1. Dec. 24, 1983: -18
2. Jan. 18, 1994: -16
3. Jan. 20, 1985: -15.5
4. Jan. 10, 1982: -15.0
5. Dec. 23, 1983: -13.5
6. Jan. 29, 1966: -13.0
7. Jan. 15, 1972: -13.0
8. Jan. 23, 1963: -12.5
9. February 3, 1996: -12.0

The dangerous deep freeze can also make it difficult to keep your home warm. To avoid a loss in heat experts recommend replacing your furnace filter and keeping vents clear. Also lower blinds and close drapes.

Before going to bed, raise your thermostat a few degrees. If you have a high-efficiency furnace, clear the intake and exhaust of snow and ice, which could pose a carbon monoxide danger.

To keep your pipes from freezing, experts say to trickle your faucets. If they still freeze, never thaw pipes with an open flame. Use a hairdryer instead.

If you’ll be out driving during the deep freeze, experts say to make sure your vehicle is ready for it.

Keep your tank at least half-full, replace the car battery if it’s old and add some extra air in your tires.

Officials recommended drivers plan their route in advance and tell others where they are going. Lastly, keep your cell phone charged in case something happens.

Several inches of snow fell across the area on Monday, and the Goose Island Beer Company found an opportunity for some marketing.Crews from the brewery were out in Ukrainian Village shoveling spaces as they promote two new beers named, “Pro-Dibs” and “Anti-Dibs.”

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