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This Morning’s Weather Is Bad — But It’s Only Getting Worse As Potentially Record-Breaking Cold Is Coming

Wednesday could have record-breaking cold for Chicago with a high of only 12 below zero expected.

A snowy morning near the lakefront.
Pat Nabong
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SOUTH LOOP — Monday morning’s 30-degree temperatures and dump of more than 3 inches of snow is just a warmup for a dangerous and potentially record-breaking weather week, one that could approach the coldest temperature ever recorded in Chicago.

Frigid temperatures warmed up overnight as snow cascaded down on the city. Temperatures could reach as high as 32 degrees Monday before plummeting to about zero at night.

The heavy snow was expected to stop by 11 a.m., though scattered snow showers and freezing drizzle will be possible throughout the day, according to the National Weather Service. More than 3 inches had fallen at O’Hare Airport as of 6 a.m. and an observer counted more than 5 inches at about 9 a.m. near Midway Airport, said Ricky Castro, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

The Department of Streets and Sanitation sent out nearly 300 plows and more than 200 salt spreaders to combat snow-covered roads. That didn’t stop travel times from reaching the two-hour mark for some drivers Monday. Delays on CTA “L” lines also snarled the morning commute.

The snow comes just as the city is gearing up for a potentially record-breaking freeze. Temperatures will dip Tuesday night and stay dangerously low through Thursday, with the possibility of wind chills making it feel like 50 degrees below zero at points, according to the National Weather Service.

The coldest temperature on record in Chicago is 27 degrees below zero on Jan. 20, 1985. It’s possible that record could be broken on Wednesday, Castro said, though the National Weather Service isn’t predicting it for now.

Tuesday has an expected high of 5 degrees and that could fall to 19 below zero overnight.

Wednesday could reach just 12 degrees below zero during the day (that’s the high temperature!). The National Weather Service said it could be the coldest high temperature ever recorded in Chicago. Temperatures are expected to hit 20 below zero overnight — which would break another record for the coldest low temperature for that day — and rise to 2 degrees for Thursday.

“Both Rockford and Chicago are likely to set multiple cold temperature records this week, including potentially the all-time low for Rockford and the coldest daytime highs for both locations,” the National Weather Service said in a tweet. “Brutally cold wind chills also are expected Tuesday evening through Thursday morning.”

The extremely cold weather can be a frostbite risk: During the times when it could feel like 35 degrees below zero, frostbite can occur in as quickly as 10 minutes, said Kevin Donofrio, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

People should wear appropriate clothing if outside, Donofrio said. He advised people to cover their heads and wear scarves and face masks. Otherwise, people should limit their time outdoors, he said.

During the cold spell, “You could get frostbite in 10 minutes,” Donofrio said. “That’s pretty quick, there. … It’s better to be inside in those situations.”

Chicago Public Schools continued classes, but other schools closed or started late Tuesday.

The Park District opened more than 60 field houses as warming centers and the city also has several warming centers.

A Winter Weather Advisory is in effect until 6 p.m. Monday, with the National Weather Service warning the snow made for “hazardous” road conditions that could impact the morning and evening commutes.

A Wind Chill Watch, which is issued when there’s “dangerously low wind chill values,” will start 6 p.m. Tuesday and last until noon Thursday.

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