Stuck in a deep freeze

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014 7:31 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Sandy Bressner - sbressner@shawmedia.com)
Mike Orlando walks his dog, Jackpot, in below-zero temperatures Monday morning through downtown Geneva.

As a designated warming center in St. Charles, the Lazarus House was, as Executive Director Liz Eakins said, “very, very busy” Monday.

But, she said, the facility at 214 Walnut St. wasn’t at capacity.

“We haven’t had to turn anybody away, and we never will,” Eakins said. “We are just so grateful to have this warm, safe place for folks in our communities to be housed and to be well fed.”

A wind chill warning remains in effect until noon today for northern Illinois, as the forecast calls for wind chills of 30 below zero to 50 below zero.

Matt Friedlein, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said such warnings are issued once wind chills reach 30 below zero.

“That’s not common at all for northern Illinois,” he said.

Wind chills Monday morning reached 47 below zero in Aurora, Friedlein said. Winds were gusting around 30 to 33 mph but should gradually diminish, he said, noting open areas could experience blowing snow into this morning.

Subzero temperatures are expected to remain in the area through noon today, which would total 36 consecutive hours with temperatures below zero, he said.

The longest stretch of subzero temperatures for Chicago dates to December 1983, when officials recorded 98 consecutive hours below zero, Friedlein said.

More recently, he said, the winter of 1994 had 44 consecutive hours of below-zero temperatures, and early February 1996 had 66 consecutive hours of subzero temperatures.

Dr. Steve Holtsford, who worked in Delnor Hospital’s emergency room Monday, encouraged people to stay home if possible to avoid the dangers of frostbite.

Symptoms of frostbite include white or grayish-yellow skin, skin that feels unusually firm or waxy and numbness. The hands, ears and nose are particularly vulnerable to frostbite, Holtsford said, noting some cases could require amputation or a skin graft.

Those who must go outside should dress in plenty of layers and avoid alcohol, which can provide a false sense of warmness, Holtsford said.

But, he said, “My biggest piece of advice is stay out of it. … There’s no room for error.”

That’s why he’s happy many school districts – including Batavia, Geneva, Kaneland and St. Charles – canceled classes Monday and today, he said.

Jim Blaney, spokesperson for St. Charles School District 303, said the decision to close school was based on whether it was safe for students and staff members to travel to school.

“It’s just dangerous to be outside,” he said. “It’s purely temperature and wind chill.”

The weather affected government operations as well. Monday, the city of St. Charles canceled its night meetings; Geneva City Hall closed; and most Kane County forest preserves closed. Refuse pickup also was delayed by one day in Sugar Grove, St. Charles, Batavia and Geneva.

But those with cabin fever had at least one place to go – Funway in Batavia.

General manager Jodi Foland said the arcade – which includes laser tag, mini golf and bumper cars – opened at 11 a.m. Monday and will open at the same time today. Usually, she said, it opens at 4 p.m.

She stressed that all employees worked on a voluntary basis.

“We’ve had a pretty good turnout today,” she said Monday afternoon. “Funway prides itself in being a fun and safe environment.”

Visit kanehealth.com for more information, including winter health tips and a list of warming centers in Kane County.

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