Conditions are expected to improve slightly, but several school districts made the decision Monday afternoon that they would remain closed today.
DeKalb District 428 Superintendent Jim Briscoe said the decision was based on more than just the temperatures, which are the coldest the area has seen since 1996.
"About 25 percent of our buses are not turning over right now," Briscoe said Monday afternoon. He said district schools in more rural areas, such as Malta, Brooks and Cortland, have issues with blowing snow. "The crews out plowing are having a difficult time keeping up with the drifting snow at those schools," Briscoe said.
Sycamore and Genoa-Kingston school superintendents made the decision early Monday afternoon to close today as well.
Briscoe expects area schools to be open Wednesday.
"I've assured parents we should be back in school on Wednesday, and I expect to see students with smiles on their faces," Briscoe said.
Northern Illinois University meteorologist Gilbert Sebenste said things will start to improve. By today, Sebenste said winds would diminish a bit. Instead of 20 mph to 30 mph winds, he said they should diminish to between 12 mph to 22 mph.
Sebenste expects temperatures to reach minus 3 today. He said DeKalb County roads still would be bad, but drifting should continue to diminish through out the day.
“As the week progresses, it will get warmer as the Arctic high pressure moves to the east and temperatures should climb to about 32 [degrees] on Friday,” Sebenste said.
He said the official low overnight from Sunday into Monday was minus 19, tied with the record low set in 1924. At 8:59 a.m. Monday, a strong wind gust pushed the temperature to minus 71 with the wind chill.
Authorities respond to weather
Because of frigid temperatures, Hope Haven, DeKalb County's homeless shelter, served about 100 people Sunday night as leaders there suspended residency and capacity rules. The emergency shelter has 30 beds for men and 24 beds for women and children.
"At this point, even though we're at capacity, if someone comes to our door, and they're not from DeKalb County, we'd take them in because they'd be risking their lives," Executive Director Lesly Wicks said.
Typically, those staying in the emergency shelter are required to leave during the day to go to work or to search for work, but shelter leaders are allowing them to stay all day as long as the extremely cold temperatures last.
Early Monday, Gov. Pat Quinn issued a disaster declaration and activated the Illinois National Guard.
DeKalb County road crews still are plowing, according to County Engineer Nathan Schwartz. The subzero temperatures and wind chills made salting ineffective. The area in the county south of Route 30 had it the worst.
No matter how the sky looks, DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott warned it’s still dangerous to be outside for any length of time.
“I would advise people to stay home unless there’s a real need," Scott said. "Have a full tank of gas, blankets in the car, dress in layers, keep your cellphone charged and stay on the main highways.”
Scott said one squad car hit a snowdrift and ran into a guardrail Sunday night, but no injuries were reported.
Meanwhile, DeKalb Police Chief Gene Lowery said his officers were facing calls that are normal during extreme weather. His department received several calls reporting prowlers that turned out to be houses creaking from the dramatic temperature changes, he said.
Sycamore Police Chief Don Thomas said while on patrol, that city’s officers are particularly on the lookout for stranded motorists and people walking.
“If we see anyone walking, we stop to check on them,” Thomas said.
He also urged anyone with a snow-covered vehicle on the street to move it. Starting today, the city will begin towing vehicles at the owner's expense.
As of Monday afternoon, Kishwaukee Hospital’s emergency department had seen only one patient requiring treatment for weather-related symptoms, said Kishwaukee Hospital marketing and public relations manager Theresa Komitas.
Sycamore Fire Chief Pete Polarek said staffing had been adjusted in his department because of the extreme weather to keep everyone safe.
“Even on simple calls, we are bringing more staff so we can limit the exposure of the patient from their door to the ambulance,” Polarek said.
He explained that sometimes the additional personnel are valuable in clearing snow from driveways and walkways.
“Everything in this weather is twice as hard to handle,” Polarek said.
Warming centers available
Lowery said no one had taken advantage of the city's warming center by Monday afternoon, but he urged anyone needing assistance to call 815-748-8400.
He also asked any churches or other community organizations willing to serve as a warming center to call the same number so the police department can compile a list.
In Sycamore, Thomas said the police department offices at 535 DeKalb Ave. are available as a warming center.
In addition, Heritage Woods of DeKalb, 2626 N. Annie Glidden Road, will be a warming center for any senior citizens who need to get warm during this cold weather. They will offer three hot meals, hot drinks and activities through Wednesday.
Cancellations and closures for today include: • Fox Valley Older Adult Services, 1406 Suydam Road, Sandwich, will be closed. • DeKalb city buildings will be closed. • Sycamore Park District buildings will be closed. • Sycamore Child Care will be closed. • Kishwaukee Sunrise Rotary Club meeting is canceled. • The Genoa City Council meeting is canceled. • The Kishwaukee Family YMCA will have regular facility hours at the facility on Bethany Road. The Barb City Y Branch at Huntley Middle School will be closed today. A limited number of programs will be offered this morning including the “No School. No Problem” program for working parents. • Bettie Bootcamp for DeKalb County's roller derby team, Barbed Wire Betties, is canceled.