Southern ‘ChiBeria’ battles dangerous cold
By Casey Toner and Susan DeMar Lafferty Staff reporters January 6, 2014 9:08PM
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
The following school districts and private schools in South Cook and Will counties have canceled classes for Tuesday: Homer Township 33C, Taft 90, Milne/Kelvin Grove 91, Will County 92, Lemont Bromberek 113A, Manhattan 114, New Lenox 122, Mokena 159, Frankfort 157C, Summit Hill 161, Crete-Monee 201U, Lockport Township 205, Thornton Township 205, Bloom Township 206, Lemont 210, Lincoln-Way 210, Argo 217, Community 218, Rich Township 227, Bremen Township 228, Oak Lawn 229, Consolidated 230, Homewood-Flossmoor 233 and Southland College Prep Charter School.
Also, Burbank 111, North Palos 117, Palos 118, Ridgeland 122, Oak Lawn/Hometown 123, Evergreen Park 124, Atwood Heights 125, Alsip 126, Chicago Ridge 127.5, Palos Heights 128, Blue Island 130, Calumet 132, Orland 135, Kirby 140, Forest Ridge 142, Midlothian 143, Arbor Park 145, Community 146, Homewood 153, Matteson 159, County Club Hills 160, Flossmoor 161, Matteson 162, Park Forest 163, Brookwood 167, Chicago Heights 170 and Steger 194.
Also, Chicago Christian High School, Marian Catholic High School, Joliet Catholic High School, Providence Catholic High School, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin in Orland Hills, Christian Hills School in Orland Hills, Infant Jesus of Prague in Flossmoor, St. Damian in Oak Forest, St. Dennis in Lockport, St. George in Tinley Park, St. Gerald in Oak Lawn, St. Germaine in Oak Lawn, St. Joseph in Homewood, St. Jude in New Lenox, St. Linus in Oak Lawn, St. Mary in Mokena, St. Michael in Orland Park and St. Stephen in Tinley Park.
Also, Lewis University, Plainfield 202, Wilmington 209U, Valley View 365U, Coal City 1, Channahon 17, Troy 30C, Rockdale 84, Joliet 86 and Fairmont 89. Joliet School District 204 buildings will be closed Tuesday, and the teacher institute scheduled for Tuesday will take place on Wednesday, with students reporting to school on Thursday.
Chicago Public Schools are also closed Tuesday. Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills and Prairie State college in Chicago Heights will open at noon Tuesday.
Updated: February 8, 2014 6:26AM
Kandace Walker’s life is on the streets, and she goes from one shelter to the next.
The 52-year-old woman has been homeless since she lost her Chicago home 30 months ago.
On Monday, she took refuge from the frigid, life-threatening temperatures at Greater Faith Baptist Church’s soup kitchen in Chicago Heights.
“I’m thankful because I’m not in the cold,” Walker said. “But I always know I’m going back outside. Sometimes when I do come in, I feel the cold in my bones.”
Walker was not alone in that feeling, as the Southland struggled with a brutal blast of Arctic weather, accompanied by treacherous ice-covered roads, closed schools, reduced municipal services, delayed public transit and flight cancellations.
About 2,000 flights were canceled Sunday and Monday at O’Hare and Midway airports. Metra trains on all 11 lines were delayed during the rush hours on Monday, some up to 90 minutes, due to frozen switches and signals. Metra canceled at least 40 trains during the evening rush, but only a few that serve the Southland.
Following a storm that blanketed the region with several inches of snow, the official temperature at O’Hare dropped to minus 16 about 8 a.m. Monday, a record low for Jan. 6, and the wind chill registered minus 42 — turning the Chicago area into what the National Weather Service dubbed “ChiBeria.” Tuesday’s high is expected to be about 8 above, with a wind chill warning continuing until noon.
The second major snowstorm since New Year’s Day is believed to have contributed to the deaths of three Will County men who apparently suffered fatal heart attacks while shoveling snow over the weekend.
Coroner Patrick K. O’Neil said all three 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 died Sunday at Saint Joseph Medical Center, O’Neil said.
Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey and St. James Hospitals in Chicago Heights and Olympia Fields treated three people injured in weather-related car accidents, two frostbite cases and another unconfirmed frostbite case, according to hospital spokesmen.
Just about every public school district in South Cook and Will counties responded to forecasts of below-zero temperatures and record wind chills by canceling classes Monday and Tuesday, giving students and staff an extra two days on winter break.
Governors State University in University Park, Joliet Junior College, Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills, Prairie State College in Chicago Heights and DePaul University’s South Suburban Campus in Oak Forest all closed Monday. Brookfield Zoo also was closed to the bewilderment of the polar bears.
Most suburbs did not have garbage collection on Monday, pushing the schedule back a day during the week, and the Will County Courthouse also closed on Monday.
“It wasn’t just the snow or just the wind or just the cold, it was all three,” said Chief Circuit Court Judge Richard Schoenstedt, who made the decision to close the courthouse in downtown Joliet and other ancillary court facilities about 6 a.m. Monday.
Schoenstedt said there were several jury trials scheduled to start Monday, and he was worried about jurors and employees who might not be able to start their cars later in the day. Anyone who was supposed to show up for court will be notified of a new court date, possibly by mail or email, he said.
Traffic cases probably won’t be rescheduled for a few days, but other cases may be, the judge said. He said people affected by the courthouse closure should check with their lawyer, if they have one, or the circuit court clerk’s website, willcountycircuitcourt.com, to see when their case is rescheduled.
Schoenstedt said he will reevaluate weather conditions early Tuesday but doesn’t expect the courthouse to close for a second day.
The Will County Office Building, 302 N. Chicago St., and the county health department,t 501 Ella Ave., both in Joliet, closed at noon Monday and will open two hours later than usual at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.
The Cook County Sheriff’s Department also suspended visitation for county jail inmates on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. All inmates who are homeless or do not have transportation from the jail may postpone their discharge until the weather improves, according to a department spokeswoman.
As for the dangerous driving conditions the past two days, Will County Highway Department crews worked throughout the weekend to keep roads clear, said county engineer Bruce Gould, who oversees that department.
High winds blowing snow across roads weren’t the only battle that plow drivers had to fight Sunday night and Monday. They also were slowed by abandoned cars that were stuck in snow drifts, Gould said.
He said roads in the southeast corner of the county were the toughest to keep open, especially in the Peotone area.
“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 makes 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.”
AAA Chicago spokeswoman Beth Mosher issued a press release Monday, saying her office had received more than 14,000 calls in the Midwest during the past 12 hours for roadside assistance. She called the demand “unprecedented” and said the agency was fielding about 650 calls per hour Monday for dead batteries and lockouts. On a busy day, AAA Chicago typically gets about 200 calls per hour, Mosher said.
Meg Doornbos, of Orland Park, said she drove to work at 7:15 a.m. Monday from Orland Park and saw at least five car accidents and spinouts and even more vehicles “on the side of the road.”
Adreanna Doizan relied on the bus Monday morning to take her to her job at the Home Depot in Orland Park. She said she wasn’t that cold waiting for a bus at 173rd Street and Kedzie Avenue in Hazel Crest because “I was sure to dress in layers.”
What did worry her, however, was if bus No. 359 would be on time because “it’s the first bus of the day.” But it arrived within minutes, and she was off to work.
Illinois State Police Master Sgt. Fred Rivera was advising people on Monday afternoon to stay home although the roads were clear. He said state police had responded to about 40 crashes and several other cars that spun out into ditches in the area since 4 a.m. Monday. The bulk of the accidents occurred near the intersection of interstates 55 and 80, but there were no injuries, he said.
Pat Carr, Tinley Park’s emergency services director, said the village took an “all hands on deck” approach to the snow and deep freeze Monday, with additional personnel called in to man fire stations and clear streets.
“When you’re dealing with subzero temperatures (firefighters) 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 the village as of early Sunday. He reminded residents that a warming center is available at the village’s senior center, 17355 S. 68th Court, should a furnace break or the power go out. Residents planning to stop by for temporary relief should phone ahead or call from the phone located outside the building (708-532-9111).
Carr also said residents involved in minor accidents should come to the police station on 183rd Street to file a report if their car is drivable, leaving patrol officers and ambulances available for emergencies.
Matteson’s Lincoln Mall experienced electrical and heat outages early Monday due to a fire in a utility room. While ComEd crews restored power and heat by late Monday afternoon, the mall remained closed until Tuesday.
South Suburban PADS (Public Action to Deliver Shelter) also expanded its locations and hours on Monday to accommodate the homeless. The agency turned its day support center, 414 West U.S. 30 in Chicago Heights, typically used for administrative services, into a warming shelter.
South Suburban PADS’ overnight shelters at First Christian Church, 1045 Dixie Highway, Chicago Heights; Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, 667 West 8th St., Chicago Heights; and St. Luke Orthodox Church, 10700 Kean Ave., Palos Hills, planned to open two hours early at 5 p.m. Monday and Tuesday due to the weather, according to Darryl Calhoun, PADS’ director of programming and operations.
Calhoun thanked all the volunteers working for PADS during the deep freeze, saying their charity “goes beyond homelessness.”
“It’s a need for people to not see people suffering,” he said. “With this kind of weather, people appreciate what they have.”
Contributing: Cindy Wojdyla Cain, Tina Akouris, Mike Nolan, Brian Stanley, Thomas Finn and Sarah Zylstra.