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Chicago Continues to Endure Polar Vortex

“Our city is confronting some of the most extreme weather we’ve seen in decades – and it’s clear that Chicagoans are rising to the challenge,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said at a press conference Monday afternoon. “I ask everyone to keep exercising good judgment and remain indoors if at all possible, to take the warnings and advisories seriously, and to check on the well-being of family, friends, and neighbors.”
At a press conference yesterday, Chicago Public Schools (C.P.S.) C.E.O. Barbara Byrd-Bennett, whom Mayor Emanuel called B3, announced the schools would remain closed Tuesday. “The safety and well-being of our students is paramount,” she said. “Given the extreme temperatures, schools will remain closed Tuesday.”

Suburban and exurban school districts also closed their schools. Most parochial schools in the city, suburbs, and exurbs are also closed. However, Notre Dame Catholic Church in Clarendon Hills announced its school would be open, and yet its nighttime religious classes would be cancelled.

St. Thomas the Apostle Church stated its school would be open, but late, at 12:00 p.m. St. John’s Lutheran School in Libertyville stated the school was closed but childcare was available.

In a similar vein, St. Viator High School in Arlington Heights stated classes were cancelled but after school activities would go on. In the Diocese of Joliet, St. Mary Parish in Downers Grove and St. Margaret Mary Parish in Naperville stated classes were cancelled, but the parish and religious education offices were open.

The Montessori Children’s Academy in Villa Park confusingly stated it would open late at 5:00 p.m. and close early at 5:00 p.m. Why not just say they’re closed?

Most public and private universities, colleges, and trade schools announced they would be closed. However, Roosevelt University announced both its campuses would be open.

ITT Technical Institute in Oak Book is open. Moraine Valley Community College announced it would open at noon.
Evelyn Diaz, the Commissioner of the City of Chicago’s Department of Family and Support Services (D.F.S.S.), outlined what the city government is doing to help people who need shelter in cooperation with religious charities. She thanked the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, and the Night Ministry for stepping up services.

“We have mobilized our non-profit partners to assist residents in need, including homeless persons and seniors,” said Ms. Diaz. “If you are seeking a warm place, you can call 311 and we will provide assistance.”

The Harold Washington Library Center and all branches of the Chicago Public Library are warming centers during normal business hours. Please note these hours vary.

The Department of Streets and Sanitation has deployed its entire fleet of over 280 snow plows and salt spreaders, twenty-six smaller four-wheel plows, and thirty quick high hitch plows attached to garbage trucks to remove snow and spread salt to ensure streets are clear for emergency vehicles and other motorists. Over thirty-four inches of snow has fallen on the city of Chicago so far in the winter of 2013-14, including nearly twenty-three inches of snowfall since the second day of Christmas (Thursday, December 26, 2013).

The department plows and salts Lake Shore Drive and arterial streets before moving on to side streets and residential streets. “Snow removal vehicles continue to work non-stop as blowing snow and freezing temperatures impact Chicago roads,” said Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Charles L. Williams.

He added, “We are focused on ensuring main arteries remain clear and safe for motorists and emergency vehicles, while also plowing side and residential streets to make them safe and passable for residents.” Commissioner Williams asked viewers when they shovel out curbside parking spaces to place the snow on the parkways (the strips of land between the sidewalks and curbsides) rather than in the middle of streets

Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago said the Chicago Fire Department (C.F.D.) does not recommend the use of space heaters, but acknowledging people do use them, he advised viewers to only use units that are UL certified and never to connect extension cords to space heaters, because the extension cords can overheat and burn. Further, he stated that space heaters should be kept more than three feet away from materials that can burn such as bedding and curtains.

“Sadly, we have found that fires have started because children have moved a space heater closer to the bed for more heat after parents have gone to bed for the night,” Fire Commissioner Santiago said. “Residents should also check and replace batteries in smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, especially this close to the holiday season. Batteries may have been borrowed for new electronics or toys.”

He alerted viewers to the fact that while a furnace running in cold weather may have a small carbon monoxide leak that goes unnoticed, in this extremely cold weather furnaces are running constantly and a carbon monoxide leak can become deadly. He reminded viewers that a carbon monoxide detector is designed to go off before one gets sick, and if one hears a carbon monoxide detector go off, one should get fresh air and immediately call 911.

The Department of Water Management has added overnight crews, and since the heavy snowstorm of last Thursday, has repaired forty water mains and other pipes. The Department of Buildings enforces the Chicago Heat Ordinance, which calls for temperatures inside rental residences to be at least 68° Fahrenheit from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. and 66° overnight.

Landlords in violation of the ordinance face fines of up to $500 per day per violation until they provide adequate heat. A tenant without heat should notify his (or her) landlord (or landlady) first and then call 311.

Between midnight Monday and the press conference Monday afternoon, the Department of Buildings received forty-six heat complaints. The Department of Buildings addressed complaints as they arose and did not find any that were so bad that emergency relocation was warranted.

Chicago’s bike-sharing program, Divvy, remains closed. It will re-open when the weather improves. If anyone out there has a Divvy bike borrowed beforehand, the bike can be returned to any Divvy station with a dock available. One can reach a service representative at 1-855-55-DIVVY (553-4889).

Forrest Claypool, President of the Chicago transit Authority (C.T.A.), reported the C.T.A. had experienced some delays Monday morning, but all train and bus routes were in operation. Further,

As of 10:30 Monday morning, airlines flying in and out of O’Hare International Airport had cancelled over 1,600 flights and of those that remained experienced delays averaging forty minutes due to de-icing and other issues. At Midway, airlines cancelled over eighty-five flights and experienced delays of twenty minutes or more. The City of Chicago encourages travelers to check the statues of their scheduled flights before heading to the airports.

Mayor Emanuel said, “I want to thank the city workers for their efforts to make sure out city keeps moving and our residents have access to vital city services when needed most. And most of all, I want to thank all Chicagoans for their patience and cooperation.”

“We remind residents to take precautions and to call 311 and we will connect you to City services and resources for assistance,” said Gary Schenkel, Executive Director of the Office of Emergency management and Communications.

As a result of the arctic air thrust downward in our direction, all fifty states have dipped below 32° Fahrenheit at some point, even Hawaii. At least seventeen deaths across the Midwest have been attributed to the polar vortex, in Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan