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School closings, Metra delays continue Tuesday due to extreme cold

Published: Friday, Jan. 24, 2014 3:46 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, July 25, 2014 4:43 a.m. CDT
Caption
Residents rush to board the inbound Metra train in Hinsdale on Jan. 7 as the temperature hovered around minus 4 degrees with a wind chill near 20 below. Metra was operating on a modified schedule as Arctic temperatures forced cancellations. (Danny Ciamprone - dciamprone@shawmedia.com)

Many schools across Chicago's western suburbs are announcing plans to close for the second day in a row due to extremely cold weather.

To find out if your school district is closed Tuesday, go to the Illinois Emergency Closing Center website at www.emergencyclosingcenter.com.

Temperatures Monday were well below zero, with wind chills dropping to minus 28 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

The forecast for Tuesday shows little improvement. A high near 1 degree is expected, with the wind chill staying in the negative 30s. Winds are expected to die down slightly to 10 to 15 mph, but the area could still see gusts at 20 mph.

Metra warns of delays due to extreme cold

Due to the "extremely cold, potentially record-breaking temperatures" forecast for the area Monday through Wednesday, Metra is notifying travelers that trains will likely be delayed, according to its website.

Metra is asking traingoers to allow extra travel time to assure safe passage to and from destinations. In the interest of safety, Metra will operate at reduced speeds, if necessary, to reduce stress on the rails.

Cold weather often leads to slower boarding, and Metra is expecting station stops to be longer than usual, according to the website.

The warning comes three weeks after a polar vortex put the western suburbs in a deep freeze Jan. 6 and 7, forcing Metra to abruptly cancel dozens of trains and operate on a modified schedule. The high temperature Jan. 6 remained below zero and the wind chill dipped into the minus 20s.

Check the Metra website for updates.

Getting prepared

When it comes to gearing up for winter, the hardware store is often the first place to start for residents.

“I would keep flashlights, batteries and hand warmers," said Bob Wing, floor manager at Buikema's Ace Hardware, 1705 N. Main St., Wheaton. "The biggest thing is, if the furnace goes out, you have to stay warm, so that's the biggest key is just warming up."

Wing said it's a good idea to have salt on hand, which ranges from about $10 to $25, depending on the size of the bag, and to have snow shovels. While snow blowers can't hurt to have ready to go before winter, he said, it's the little things such as having plenty of batteries for devices that make the difference.

Keep the car running

You don't have to be a mechanic to know the basics of car maintenance when keeping the vehicle in good condition during dismal winter temperatures.

“Make sure you have plenty of gas and just don't let that get too low," said Tom O'Leary, store manager at Pep Boys Auto Parts and Service, 6247 S. La Grange Road, Hodgkins. "Also, take your tire pressure, because tire pressure goes down when it's really cold like this."

O'Leary said drivers should have antifreeze and jumper cables, because batteries lose energy faster in the winter. It's also a good idea to have emergency kits in the car, he said, and to make sure basic items are in check.

“Don't wait until the last minute to change the wiper blades, because you only notice if they streak when you actually need them, and then when you don't need them you don't remember it," O'Leary said. "And don't use the wiper blades as an ice scraper. Scrape it out first, because your wiper blades will wear out a lot faster and you'll have to replace them.”

For those who do decide to travel during the harsh conditions, O'Leary recommends warming up the car for at least five minutes to get the oil flowing. If a driver does get stuck in the snow or ice, there are other options to try before calling AAA or a tow truck.

“A lot of people, what they'll do is take kitty litter and keep it in the trunk to use," he said. "It adds weight to the vehicle and it will also give it some traction.”

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