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Southlanders struggle under deep freeze; three Will County men die after shoveling snow

Metrcommuter crosses over snow drifts tracks 159th StatiMonday January 6th 2013 Oak Forest| Gary Middendorf/for Sun-Times Media

a Metra commuter crosses over snow drifts on the tracks at 159th Station, Monday, January 6th, 2013, in Oak Forest| Gary Middendorf/for Sun-Times Media

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Schools closed Monday: Districts 111, 114, 143 1/2, 146, 140, 229, 117, 157C, 126, 142, 130, 128, 217, 170, 163, 160, 127 ½, 201-U, 210, 109, 218, 228, 206, 90, 144.

In addition, St. George in Tinley Park, St. Michael in Orland Park, St. Linus in Oak Lawn, St. Paul in Oak Lawn and St. Dennis in Lockport will also be closed Monday, as will Mother McAuley and Mount Assisi high schools.

District 230 cancelled its Institute Day Monday for staff and after-school activities are cancelled.

On Orland Park District 135’s website Sunday, a statement advised parents to check back that evening. A decision to cancel classes or not would be made by 6 a.m. Monday.

Lincoln-Way Community High School District 210 schools also will be closed Tuesday.

For all Chicago area school closings, visit www.emergencyclosingcenter.com/ecc/home.jsp

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Updated: February 7, 2014 6:27AM



Brutal. Arctic. Abominable. And deadly.

The winter storms that have moved through the area are believed to have contributed to the deaths of three Will County men over the weekend. The three apparently suffered fatal heart attacks while shoveling snow.

Will County Coroner Patrick K. O’Neil said all three men were shoveling before being found unresponsive. A 57-year-old Bolingbrook man was pronounced dead Saturday at Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital. A 62-year-old Joliet man and a 63-year-old Joliet man both died Sunday at Saint Joseph Medical Center, O’Neil said.

O’Neil said despite the extreme cold no hypothermia cases had been reported to the coroner’s office as of 11 a.m. Monday.

Things were getting progressively worse beginning Sunday evening as the Chicago area, dubbed “ChiBeria” by the National Weather Service, no sooner finished digging out Sunday than temperatures began dropping to life-threatening lows.

A winter storm warning was in effect until 6 p.m. Sunday, at which point the area fell under a wind chill warning lasting until noon Tuesday.

Despite forecasts of -16 on the horizon, Wendy Potter remained upbeat as she cleared her Hazel Crest driveway Sunday.

“I’ve got on all kinds of layers – a coat, a jacket, a sweatshirt, a turtleneck, two pairs of socks and long johns,” she said as she demonstrated the “push and kick” method for shoveling without throwing your back out.

“I bowl and I use a 14-pound ball; I know my limit,” she said. “So I just push this snow to the side and then kick it out of the way. See how easy that is?”

As messy and inconvenient as the six-plus inches of snow that blanketed the Southland could be, it was the extreme cold that presented the real danger.

School districts from Oak Lawn to Lockport responded to forecasts of below zero temperatures and record low wind chills by canceling classes Monday, giving students and staff an extra day of winter break.

Officials at Governors State University in University Park, DePaul University South Suburban Campus in Oak Forest and Brookfield Zoo announced that those facilities also would be closed Monday.

Chicago Heights rescheduled its city council meeting, originally slated for Monday night, to 10 a.m. Friday.

The Will County Courthouse was closed on Monday due to the extreme weather conditions.

“It wasn’t just the snow or just the wind or just the cold, it was all three,” said Chief Judge Richard Schoenstedt, who made the decision to close the main courthouse at 14 W. Jefferson St. and other ancillary court facilities at about 6 a.m. Monday.

Schoenstedt said there were several jury trials scheduled to start on Monday, and he was worried about all the jurors and employees who might not be able to start their cars after letting them sit for eight hours or more.

Anyone who was supposed to show up for court will be notified of a new court date, possibly by mail or email, Schoenstedt said.

Traffic cases probably won’t be rescheduled for the next few days. But other cases may be. He said people affected by the courthouse closure should check with their lawyer, if they have one, or the circuit clerk’s website, willcountycircuitcourt.com, to see when their case is rescheduled.

Schoenstedt said he will reevaluate weather conditions early Tuesday morning to see if the courthouse should be closed again, but he thinks it is unlikely.

“I’m going to do everything in my power to be sure we’re open tomorrow,” he said. “Obviously, every day that we’re closed just builds files for future court dates. And that’s a situation the judges would like to avoid.”

While the courthouse was closed for most business on Monday, Schoenstedt said it would open at 11:30 a.m. for a noon session of “holiday court” where bond is set for people arrested over the weekend.

“By the U.S. Constitution, we have to get them before a judge in a certain amount of time,” he said.

The Will County Office Building at 302 N. Chicago St. and the Will County Health Department at 501 Ella Ave. were open on Monday.

“The county provides services, and if people are coming to look for those services, we’re open,” said Nick Palmer, chief of staff for Will County Executive Larry Walsh.

Will County Clerk Nancy Schultz Voots said all but one of her employees made it to work.

“So people can pay their back taxes, they can get a birth certificate or a marriage certificate. Anything my office does, we’re up and running.”

County highway department crews worked throughout the weekend to keep roads clear, said County Engineer Bruce Gould, who oversees that department.

High winds weren’t the only battle the plow drivers had to fight. They also were slowed by abandoned cars that were stuck in snow drifts, Gould said. The sheriff’s department was called to arrange towing for the cars so the plow drivers could continue on their routes.

Roads in the southeastern corner of the county were the toughest to keep open, especially in the Peotone area, Gould added.

“We were trying to bust them all open through the night,” he said. “We have a lot of them that blew shut.”

The bitter cold also is making the job tougher because salt won’t melt on the roads in such extreme temperatures.

“When it’s this cold, nothing is going to work,” Gould said. “This is ridiculous cold when you’re talking 50-below wind chill. You’re wasting your time thinking (salt) is going to melt. We’re just plowing and going back and forth.”

Hazel Crest Police Chief Tom Folliard said Public Works plows were out all morning Sunday working quickly to clear away the snow before the temperatures plunged.

“We are issuing tickets for snow route parking violations,” he said.

Folliard also said officials are advising residents to stay indoors unless they absolutely have to go out. And if you do head out, make sure you have a warm blanket and extra gloves and hats in the car.

In Tinley Park, Bill Gibbons planned to work from home Monday. The steelworker union representative said union officials make sure that any worker who has to be outside gets additional breaks and is wearing protective clothing.

Pat Carr, Tinley Park’s emergency services director, said the village was taking an “all hands on deck” approach to the snow and deep freeze, with additional personnel called in to man fire stations and clear streets.

“When you’re dealing with subzero temperatures (fire fighters) can run into equipment problems and water can freeze,” he said. “That’s why we take extra precautions.”

Carr said plows were out in full force in that village early Sunday. He reminded residents that a warming center is available should a furnace break or the power go out. The facility is located inside the senior center at 17355 S. 68th Ct. Residents planning to stop by for temporary relief should phone ahead, or call from the phone located outside the building (708-532-9111).

About 50 Tinley Parkers had lost power Sunday morning but ComEd officials expected to have service restored within two hours, Carr said.

Carr also said officials are telling residents involved in minor accidents to come to the police station to file a report if their car is still drivable, leaving patrol officers and ambulances available for emergencies.

In the village’s 911 center, lead dispatcher Jane Flowers said staff was anticipating an increase in calls about stalled vehicles, accidents and power outages and as well as a spike in requests for ambulances.

Adreanna Doizan said she wasn’t cold at all waiting for a bus at 173rd at Kedzie in Hazel Crest.

“I was sure to dress in layers,” she said. What did worry her, however, was if bus No. 359 would be on time.

“It’s the first bus of the day,” she said.

But within minutes it showed, there it was and she was off to her job at Home Depot in Orland Park.

Dawn Thrasher, emergency shelter/community resource manager for South Suburban PADS (Public Action to Deliver Shelter), said volunteers are needed to drive homeless people from bus stops to Monday night’s designated shelter locations. Temporary shelter sites are different for each day of the week. Homeless people who seek temporary shelter when the weather is dangerous typically take public transportation to the designated sites.

“Our North Tier Monday night sites (St. Luke’s on 107th and Kean, and Southwest Alliance on Kean at about 100th Street) are both extremely difficult sites for our guests to get to even in the nicest of weather,” she said. There are no streetlights or sidewalks, she said, and buses do not run at times that are conducive to shelter operation.

“Making either one of these trips tomorrow will present a life safety issue for our guests. Frostbite is a true reality as is slipping and falling while walking in the dark without sidewalks,” Thrasher said.

Thrasher said PADS workers will be encouraging guests to be at the Oak Lawn Public Library and City Hall, across from each other on 95th Street and Raymond Drive, at 5:30 p.m. Monday.

They need volunteers who live in the Oak Lawn/Burbank/Chicago Ridge/Palos Hills area to transport guests to the two shelter sites Monday night and then back to the Oak Lawn locations from the shelters at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday.

If you can help, email Thrasher at dawn@sspads.org

Four warming centers are available to Oak Lawn residents:

Oak Lawn Public Library, 9427 Raymond Ave. Open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. www.lib.oak-lawn.il.us/

Oak Lawn Senior Center, 5220 W. 105th St. Open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. www.oaklawn-il.gov/Departments/Community-Services/Senior-Services.aspx

Oak Lawn Park District Pavilion, 9401 Oak Park Ave. Open Monday through Thursday from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. www.olparks.com/parks-facilities/community-pavilion

Oak Lawn Racquet and Fitness Club, 10444 S. Central Ave. Open Monday and Wednesday from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. www.olparks.com/parks-facilities/oak-lawn-racquet

Additional warming
centers include:

Bremen Township, 16361 Kedzie Pkwy., Markham. Open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Contact: (708) 333-9530 or, for after-hours phone calls, (708) 687-1376 (police).

Calumet Township Community Center, 12633 S. Ashland Ave., Calumet Park. Open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Contact: (708) 388-6606 or, for after-hours phone calls, (708) 385-0264 (police).

Lemont Park District, 16050 W. 127th St., Lemont. Open Monday through Friday from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Contact: (630) 257-6787 or, for after-hours phone calls, (630) 257-2229 (police).

Orland Township, 14807 Ravinia Ave., Orland Park. Open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Contact: (708) 403-4222 or, for after-hours phone calls, (708) 349-4111 (police).

Thornton Township, 333 E. 162nd St., South Holland. Open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Contact: (708) 596-6040 ext. 3122 or, for after-hours phone calls, (708) 331-3131 (police).

Worth Township, 11601 S. Pulaski Rd., Alsip. Open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Contact: (708) 371-2900 or, for after-hours phone calls, (708) 385-6131 (police).

Contributing: Cindy Cain and Brian Stanley



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