The Chicago area is bracing for dangerously cold weather to start the workweek, with temperatures expected to remain below zero Monday and Tuesday, and wind chills nearing 50 degrees below zero.
"All these weather conditions can be life-threatening," said Dr. Martin Fedko, a Rush University Medical Center emergency physician. "It really depends on how much you've layered (clothes) and how long you're outside."
The National Weather Service predicts below-zero temperatures starting Sunday night and continuing through to Wednesday.
All the while, wind chills are expected to sink to between 30 and 45 below zero, and wind gusts of up to 35 mph could blow around the recent snow, causing low visibility on roads.
Illinois Department of Transportation officials are urging motorists to avoid driving if possible and to be extremely careful. IDOT crews will be out in full force, using a combination of salt and calcium chloride to de-ice roads.
With a potential spike in ridership expected, transit officials said they're calling in extra staff to ensure that equipment, tracks and switches aren't frozen or damaged.
"Despite our best efforts though, we certainly can have problems," said Metra spokesman Tom Miller.
Riders should allow more time for their commute and monitor websites and email alerts for possible scheduling delays.
Delays and cancellations were reported Saturday at both of the city's airports, and officials said their main concern Monday would be keeping runways and taxiways clear of snow and ice.
Chicago public schools are scheduled to be open Monday and Tuesday, but student absences will be excused with parental notification. While some suburban schools have announced they'll be closed, others were expected to make a decision Sunday.
Weather reports prompted a comparison to Siberia on Twitter, where the hashtag "ChiBeria" gained traction with users. In downtown Chicago, the anticipation of cold had some opting to change their plans and stay indoors Monday.
Bianca Munoz and Megan Mundell, 17-year-olds from Schererville, Ind., shopping along Michigan Avenue Saturday, said they planned to return to Chicago Monday for a final day of holiday-break fun before going back to school Tuesday.
The forecast, though, had the pair rethinking those plans.
"It's kind of ruined," Munoz said.
Tribune reporter Kate Thayer contributedCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun