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Beware of dangerous wind chills overnight, weather service says

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Updated: December 12, 2013 1:40PM



Jonathan Houghtling stood outside Macy’s on State Street in the bitter cold Wednesday, with a bright orange trombone in tow.

“I just got here and my slide is freezing up on me,” Houghtling said.

“If It doesn’t move, I’ve got a bottle of rubbing alcohol that will unfreeze it.”

Houghtling spent between 3 and 8 p.m. bracing against the cold, working with the Salvation Army to help bring in donations as he played classic Christmas carols.

The DePaul University post-graduate student, 24, knew what he was in for.

“I’ve got long underwear, sweatpants, jeans, moisture wicking socks, extra lining on my pants. And I’ve got hand warmers in my pocket if I need them.”

Follow his lead and pack on those puffy coats, earmuffs, hats and gloves Chicago: It’s going to remain dangerously cold until early Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.

Parts of the area could see light snow flurries Thursday along with the bitter cold, but it’s not expected to impact the morning commute.

“Motorists shouldn’t be surprised if they do see some flurries out there, and take it easy,” National Weather Service Meteorologist Matt Friedlein said. “Any flurries would probably stick to the ground given how cold it is.”

By Wednesday evening, temperatures at O’Hare Airport have already dipped to 6 degrees as of 7 p.m., but it felt like 4 degrees below zero with the wind chill, according to the weather service. But that’s still not as frigid as Aurora Airport near far west suburban Sugar Grove, where the mercury plunged to 16 below zero with the wind chill, with temperatures still falling.

“This is a little earlier than normal but it reminds us we do need to be prepared for winter weather,” Friedlein said.

A wind chill advisory is in effect until 5 a.m. Thursday, but forecasters are warning people to bundle up, as the high temperature will only reach 17 to 21 degrees.

The advisory warns that very cold air and strong winds could result in frostbite and lead to hypothermia if precautions aren’t taken.

“If you must venture outdoors ... make sure you wear a hat and gloves,” the advisory says.

Forecasters are also urging drivers to keep an extra pair of warm clothes and a blanket in their vehicles in case they get stranded.

Overnight, wind chills in outlying areas in the far western and northern suburbs were expected to reach 20 to 25 below, the weather service said.

Overnight, downtown Chicago will feel as cold as 15 to 25 degrees below zero with the wind, and the blanket of snow on the ground isn’t helping, forecasters said.

“That helps to kind of act like a freezer, and none of that sun’s radiation today [Wedneday] was absorbed with the snow on the ground,” Friedlein said.

The city helped secure lodging for nearly 3,000 people both Monday and Tuesday nights in shelters and other interim housing across Chicago.

Chicago has six warming centers, open weekdays from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. when temperatures dip below 32 degrees. And other facilities, like senior centers, libraries and park district buildings are also available for people seeking daytime refuge from the cold.

Chicago residents are advised to call 311 to locate the nearest warming center. Residents can also call to request a ride to a shelter.

Still, as Chicagoans are blown away by the frigid air, the weather service reminded everyone that we’ve done this before.

In 2000, we bundled up for an actual temperature of minus 8 – not a wind chill value. And on Dec. 11, 1972, Chicagoans shivered through minus-5 degree temperatures.

The metro area won’t see a chance of snowfall again until late Friday into Saturday. There’s a 50 percent chance of snow Friday night and 60 percent on Saturday.



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