CHICAGO (WLS) — An extreme cold snap has moved through the region, with wind chills forecast to reach well below freezing, making it a chilly Wednesday.

Click here to see school closures due to freezing temperatures

Temperatures will barely hit the double digits on Wednesday, but will eventually rise through Thursday.

Temperatures dipped below freezing and wind chills reached minus 34.


As of 8 a.m., the temperature was minus 5 at O’Hare International Airport with a wind chill of minus 12, a slight improvement from minus 16 recorded at the airport an hour earlier. In Aurora, the wind chill reached minus 34, in DeKalb minus 30, in Bartlett minus 22 and in Kankakee minus 21.

The last time Chicago was this cold was Feb. 7 of last year, when temperatures hit minus 7 degrees, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Kevin Birk. Temperatures again dropped to minus 5 on February 14.

Just three years ago, in 2019, the city recorded a January 25 with a temperature of minus 6 degrees.

The lowest record for this date is minus 16 set in 1897.

Several Metra lines, including North Central Service and Milwaukee District North, reported switching issues due to cold weather. Trains on both Metra lines were operating with delays of up to 35 minutes on Tuesday due to switching issues.

Metra uses gas burners and other heating equipment to heat the rails, and with Arctic-like conditions expected in the morning, they left the train engines running overnight.

WATCH: How to stay safe in extreme cold weather

“Anything we can think of doing, we will do,” Metra spokesman Michael Gillis said. “And we’ll try to make sure your ride is safe, comfortable, warm and timely.”

Commuters who had to wait for the bus or train were piling up in diapers on Wednesday morning.

“I started the car for 30 minutes, let it run for 30-40 minutes before I even got in, then I commute, drive to the station, get on the train, I had to wait 10 more minutes because everything is frozen outside in the cold, got here, took a cab to Union Station, freezing, freezing,” said commuter Nia Neal.

Wednesday’s temperature will rise to around 10 degrees, but the wind chill will remain extremely cold, reaching minus 20 again, according to the weather service.

“It’s so cold outside it’s bitter; it hurts your face when you walk,” said Joseph Heredia, a commuter. “You have to layer up every day, you know, it’s hard, but we live in Chicago, that’s what we do.”

His suburban colleague Dilip Nakarani agreed.

“It’s crazy. If you take a long walk, you’re going to get in trouble,” Nakarani said.

The weather is especially dangerous for homeless men and women in the Chicago area.

As the freeze continues, there are concerns about the dangers to homeless people living outside, who could suffer from frostbite or hypothermia.

“It’s a health issue; we get worried any time the temperature starts to drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit,” said Dr. Stathis Poulakida, director of burns surgery for Cook County. “The tissues that are most at risk are the hands and feet as they are the end of the blood supply, as well as your nose, or possibly your ears as well.”

WATCH: What are the signs of frostbite, hypothermia?

The National Weather Service warns that bitter cold can cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 30 minutes.

Authorities are urging people without heating to use warming centers.

Chicago has activated six community warming centers open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
-45 W. Wilson Avenue

-4312 W. North Ave1140 W. 79th Street (79th/Racine Ave)
– 1140 West 79th Street (79th/Racine Avenue)
-8650 S.Commercial
-4314 S. Cottage Grove Ave
-10 S. Kedzie (Kedzie Ave/Madison)
The Garfield Center at 10 S. Kedzie is available 24/7. Libraries and park district sites are also available. To locate a nearby center, citizens can call municipal services at 311 or visit

There is a supplement 19 warming centers around Cook County, which you can find by clicking here.

There are steps you can take to keep your vehicle running and your home warm:

  • To keep your car running in extreme cold, have your battery checked and make sure you have jumper cables in your trunk.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half full.
  • Have an emergency kit stocked with blankets, non-perishables, boots, and extra clothes in case you get stuck.
  • RELATED: Winter Wonder: What Is ‘Pancake Ice’ On Lake Michigan, How Does It Form?

    When it comes to your home, experts advise:

  • Setting your thermostat to 68 degrees
  • Have your furnace inspected to make sure it is operating safely and efficiently.
  • Replace your furnace filter if it’s been a while.
  • Never use an oven or kerosene heater indoors.
  • “It should not be used in your home. These fumes can become combustible and not only cause a fire, but also an explosion,” said Chicago Fire District Deputy Chief Brian Johnson.

    The Chicago Fire Department does not recommend the use of space heaters; however, if used, make sure they are UL listed and at least 3 feet away from anything that can catch fire. The use of a heater in children’s bedrooms should be closely monitored as children sometimes move them near the bed or in the bed with tragic results, officials said.

    If extension cords are used, they should be rated at 15 amps minimum and never place the cords under the rug. With the increased demand on furnaces and boilers, CFD is also reminding residents that they are required by ordinance to have functioning carbon monoxide detectors to protect against carbon monoxide leaks from a heating system that could be fatal over time, and to keep smoke detectors working.

    Another big problem in the cold is broken pipes.

    To prevent this from happening:

  • Let a trickle of water flow slowly from your faucets to prevent pipes from freezing
  • Open doors and cabinets to allow heat to reach bathroom pipes and pipes under sinks.
  • When it comes to protecting yourself from frostbite or hypothermia, use common sense, dress in layers, and always wear a hat and gloves.

    Wednesday night’s wind chill is expected around minus 7 degrees.

    Warming is expected on Thursday, when daytime temperatures rise to 30 degrees, with nighttime lows nearing the digits. There is also a chance of snow.

    Sun-Times Media contributed to this report.

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