CHICAGO — Temperatures dropped about 20 degrees Thursday afternoon as a severe winter storm hit Chicago.
Weather conditions deteriorated quickly during the day as the storm moved in. It began snowing around noon, and by 4 p.m. temperatures dropped from 35 to 13 degrees in parts of the city and suburbs.
More than 800 flights were canceled between O’Hare and Midway airports as of 4 p.m., and delays were being reported at both.
By late Thursday, it could feel as cold as 40 below zero and dangerously windy weather will make travel “treacherous” and put people at risk for frostbite and hypothermia, meteorologists have warned.
“Getting stranded can be deadly!” the National Weather Service tweeted Thursday morning.
Meteorologists and city officials have repeatedly urged people to stay indoors and avoid travel as much as possible Thursday and Friday, when the worst of the storm is expected. That’s upended travel and holiday plans for many people ahead of Christmas this weekend.
The city’s sent out its fleet of salt spreaders and snow plows, and officials have tried to connect people experiencing homelessness with resources, including warming centers.
Here’s what you need to know:
The city is expected to see snow for most of the day, with the bulk hitting after 11 a.m. and the snow falling heavily at times, according to the National Weather Service.
But just 4-6 inches of snow are ultimately expected to fall during the storm, according to the weather agency. The real risk during the storm is expected to be the extreme cold and wind.
Chicago hit 35 degrees at its warmest Thursday, but a cold front will moved in during the late morning and early afternoon that brought plunging temperatures and dangerous wind gusts, making it feel far colder.
The city is expected to hover around 8 degrees most of the rest of the day — but it could feel more like 13 below zero due to the windchill.
Wind gusts up to 35 mph are expected. Meteorologists have warned the strong winds will easily blow around the morning’s snow, creating low- to zero-visibility, whiteout conditions that will make it hard — and dangerous — for drivers to see on the road.
The snow will continue Thursday night into Friday morning, and temperatures will dip to 6 below zero, though it will feel as cold as 33 degrees below zero, according to the National Weather Service. The wind will continue, with gusts up to 45 mph possible.
Friday is expected to see more snow showers in the morning and lots of snow being blown around, according to the weather agency. The day is only expected to warm up to 1 degree — and it could feel as cold as 34 degrees below zero during the day.
The dangerous wind will continue, with gusts up to 50 mph possible Friday, according to the National Weather Service.
Isolated snow showers are possible Friday night, with flurries after midnight and more snow being blown around. It could feel as cold as 28 degrees below zero overnight and wind gusts up to 50 mph remain possible.
Saturday will see the weather start to change, though it will remain very cold, with a high temperature of just 10 degrees expected. There will be areas that still see blowing snow, and there’s a chance for snow flurries, according to the National Weather Service.
Christmas on Sunday is expected to remain chilly, with a high of 13 degrees, but the day wil be mostly sunny.
How To Stay Safe
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Watch For Frostbite And Hypothermia
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns to watch for these signs of frostbite:
- Redness or pain in the skin can be a sign frostbite is beginning.
- White or grayish-yellow skin.
- Skin that feels unusually firm or waxy.
People experiencing symptoms of frostbite should immediately seek medical care, according to the CDC. If immediate medical care is not available, the person with signs of frostbite should be brought into a warm room as soon as possible, according to the agency.
People with signs of frostbite in their feet or toes should not walk, and people should not massage the frostbitten area or rub snow on it, as these actions can cause more damage, according to the CDC.
People should put the skin affected by frostbite in warm but not hot water; if warm water isn’t available, warm the skin with bodyheat, like by putting frostbitten fingers in an armpit, according to the CDC. More information about frostbite is available online.
- Exhaustion or feeling very tired.
- Fumbling hands.
- Memory loss.
- Slurred speech.
- Bright, cold skin and very low energy in babies.
People showing signs of hypothermia should have their temperature taken; if it is below 95 degrees, they should seek immediate medical attention, according to the CDC.
If immediate medical care is not available, the people should get into a warm room or shelter, remove any wet clothing and warm the center of their body — their chest, neck, head and groin — with an electric blanket, according to the CDC.
People experiencing hypothermia who are conscious can also drink warm drinks, but they should not have alcohol, according to the CDC.
Once the person has warmed up, they should stay dry and keep their body wrapped in a warm blanket, and they should get medical care as soon as possible, according to the CDC.
More information about hypothermia is available online.
Chicago Warming Centers
People who need a safe space to warm up can go to a city warming center, which open when temperatures are at 32 degrees or below. They’re open 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
- Englewood Center, 1140 W. 79th St.
- North Area Center, 845 W. Wilson Ave.
- Garfield Center, 10 S. Kedzie Ave.: This center is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to connect people to emergency shelter.
- South Chicago Center, 8650 S. Commercial Ave.
- King Center, 4314 S. Cottage Grove Ave.
- Trina Davila Center, 4312 W. North Ave.
You can call 311 to find the warming center nearest to you. Older people can also go to one of the city’s 21 senior centers. Information about the senior centers is available online.
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