Chicago on Tuesday witnessed its first sub-zero day in 711 days, and wasn’t at all fazed by the extreme weather. The last time Chicago witnessed such low temperatures was on Feb 10, 2011.
By mid-day, temperatures ranged between 5 and 10 degrees downtown and are expected to fall to 5 below zero overnight. According to Amy Ceeley, meteorologist at the National Weather Service, temperatures dipped because an arctic air mass moved down from Canada.
City services were running unaffected by the extreme weather. Metra services were normal, with a few technical issues and delays, but none related to the weather. The CTA did not respond to calls about any weather-related problems.
Owing to the extreme weather Monday night, the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services opened a community center in East Garfield Park on the West Side. The center doubles as a warming center in the winters. The center saw 95 people come in until 4 a.m.; 92 were placed in shelters, two went home and one went to stay with a relative.
“Yesterday was a holiday, so people had fewer options, which is why we had to open the center. This is why we had more people at the center,” said Matt Smith, who handles media relations for the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services.
The department runs six community centers and 21 senior centers, which are used as warming centers in winter, with the senior centers specifically catering to seniors. While there were a large number of people at the center, Smith said that they have handled a higher number of requests in the past.
Smith said people in need of shelter should call the 311 helpline. If the warming centers are closed – as is the case nights and weekends – people will be directed to a homeless shelter.
Officials at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, an advocacy group working to end homelessness, said they have not heard of any complaints related to public homeless shelters or warming centers.
Prolonged exposure to the cold can result in serious health problems, the most common being hypothermia and frostbite. The Chicago Department of Public Health said that there weren’t any notable cases of cold-related trauma cases reported so far.
According to Ceeley at the weather service, Chicagoans can expect temperatures to rise Wednesday, ranging in the 20s. That’s still below normal, but will feel balmy in comparison to Tuesday.