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Illinois digs out of snow, braces for arctic temps

CHICAGO – Illinois residents found themselves bracing for sub-zero high temperatures Thursday as they dug out from a winter storm that brought as much as 18 inches of snow to northern parts of the state.

It’s going to be “some of the coldest air we’ve had in a long time,” National Weather Service meteorologist Ed Shimon, based in Lincoln, said.

The New Year’s Day snow storm stretched into Thursday for parts of Illinois, bringing double-digit snow totals to the suburbs of Chicago. Gurnee had 18 inches and Highwood had 15 inches. In central Illinois snow totals were between 3 and 5 inches.

The snow was blamed for at least two deaths Thursday. One unidentified person died in a traffic accident on Interstate 72 in Macon County, while authorities say 66-year-old Carl W. Walker of Alton suffered a fatal heart attack after using a snow blower.

In DeKalb, assistant public works director Mark Espy told The Daily Chronicle that, “this storm just brings you to your knees.”

Chicago closed its outdoor ice rinks Thursday because of the snow. About 300 flights were canceled at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, with delays of about 45 minutes Thursday. Midway International Airport had minor delays and few cancellations.

Some of the accumulation along Lake Michigan was because of lake-effect snow, forecasters said. That could mean snow rates of 2 inches an hour and local snow totals near the lake of up to a foot.

Forecasters warned of frostbite and hypothermia risks as temperatures were expected to drop going into Friday to as low as negative 18 in the Rockford area.

That’s just a taste of the sub-zero temperatures expected Sunday night and through Tuesday in Illinois. The National Weather Service said highs Monday would be between 5 and 10 degrees below zero in the Chicago area. Lows Monday were forecast to drop to 20 below.

Forecasts for central Illinois call for highs Monday and Tuesday at or just below zero and lows as low as 12 or 13 degrees below zero at night, according to the weather service.

In any case, anyone who doesn’t have to be outside should stay inside, Shimon said.

“The impact would be frost bite in a short period of time,” he said. “Cover all exposed skin if you have to be outside.”

The National Weather Service warned that the last time temperatures fell this low water lines burst, overworked furnaces stopped functioning, car batteries died and local utility companies set usage highs.

Temperatures are expected to rise to the teens by later next week.



List of warming centers and other information on dealing with the cold:


AP reporter David Mercer contributed to this report from Champaign.

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