The deep cold that seized Illinois for two days has loosened its grip, leaving flooded rivers, frozen waterways and at least three deaths in its wake.
Temperatures reached the low 20s in the northern part of the state Saturday -- balmy compared to the subzero weather that forced people to hide their grimaces behind scarves and ski masks. The National Weather Service said it was the coldest episode in northern Illinois since February 1996.
The cold claimed lives. A driver lost control on ice in a Chicago suburb Thursday and forced a truck off a bridge. The truck's driver, 69-year-old John Hichen of Downers Grove, was killed in a 40-foot fall. In central Illinois, 37-year-old Thomas Edwards of Normal was found Thursday in the snow outside his home. A preliminary autopsy indicated he was intoxicated and froze to death. And 73-year-old William Divello of Chicago died Thursday after slipping on ice.
Looking ahead to Sunday, highs around 22 are predicted with a low around 10.
Thursday was the first time in 13 years that the mercury didn't rise past zero, and you could likely feel it. And Thursday was just the midpoint of meteorological winter.
On Thursday, the Chicago Park District closed all nine outdoor rinks around the city as a safety precaution against the inclement weather. That's how cold it was. Too cold to ice skate.
Though the snow is gone -- for now -- plunging temperatures have brought a whole new set of problems to Chicago area residents as authorities report significant increases in reports of stranded motorists and people seeking shelter from the bitter cold.
-- Don't pile snow near fire hydrants.
-- Use caution with space heaters. Keep them three feet away from anything that can burn: bedding, clothing, curtains, people.
-- Check on your neighbors, especially the elderly or disabled.
-- Make sure your smoke detector works.
-- If you get stuck in your car, stay in the car but don't run your engine non-stop. Carbon monoxide can build up. Instead, crank your engine in intervals of 10 minutes with the heat on and crack your window.
If you're a pet owner, Petfinders.com has seven cold weather tips to keep your pet safe during extreme weather:
Peoples Gas has also shared some tips for keeping your home heating costs down in this bitter cold.
Share your own helpful hints below.