Friday’s bitter cold temperatures and frigid wind chill values have officials searching the streets for those in need of shelter and police scrambling to an unusually high number of weather-related accidents.
A wind chill warning remains in effect until noon Friday, according to the National Weather Service’s Web site. A wind chill warning means the combination of wind and very cold air will create dangerously low wind chill values that could result in frost bite and lead to hypothermia or death if precaution is not taken.
Chicago officials reported more than 160 shelter requests and 100 crisis referral calls between Thursday night and Friday morning, according to a city of Chicago release.
Additionally, the city’s Department of Family and Support Services conducted 20 well-being checks and continued to reach out to the city’s homeless, while the city’s Department of Buildings is monitoring more than 300 calls for no heat, the release said.
"We're asking all of Chicago to be our eyes and ears and help us take care of those who are most vulnerable," said Mary Ellen Caron, who heads Chicago's department of family support services. "A call to 311 could save a life."
Cold Brings More Crashes
On the roads, State Police reported an unusually high number of crashes -- including one involving a squad car.
About 3:15 a.m., a State Police squad car was struck as it was responding to a crash on the northbound Kennedy Expressway near Armitage Avenue. The trooper was in the car, but was not injured or hospitalized, Illinois State Police District Chicago Trooper Ivan Bukaczyk said.
Earlier, State Police responded to seven separate crashes involving 15 different vehicles on the Ontario feeder ramp from the outbound Kennedy Expressway (I-90/94) about 2:30 a.m., Bukaczyk said.
Bukaczyk said the crashes are a result of slick roads and people not allowing enough distance between vehicles.
In the west suburbs, State Police had to close to temporarily close the northbound lanes of the North-South Tollway (I-355) at Lake Street near northwest suburban Addison early Friday because of ice, according to Illinois State Police Elgin District. The Illinois Department of Transportation responded and the lanes were reopened a short time later.
The Illinois Tollway Department has enacted its Zero Weather Road Patrols, a 24-hour service dedicated to searching for motorists stranded in their disabled vehicles when temperatures or wind chills drop below zero, according to a department release. The patrollers will also respond to calls that come into *999, Illinois Tollway dispatch or Illinois State Police Tollway District.
The Zero Weather Road Patrols consist of crew cab trucks equipped with arrow boards for directing traffic around accidents or stranded vehicles, the release said. The trucks have enough room to accommodate five passengers if motorists need to be taken to a Tollway maintenance garage, toll plaza or Tollway oasis.
There are a minimum of 11 Zero Weather Road Patrols -- at least one from each maintenance garage station -- that augment H.E.L.P. trucks and State Police patrols, especially during the overnight hours, the release said.
Temperatures are expected to begin rising Friday and the bitter should move out of the area by Saturday.
The mercury is expected to climb near 7 degrees Friday, but a southwest wind will still create wind chill values as low as minus-34 degrees, the weather service said.
Temperatures will drop as low as 5 degrees Friday night before rising to 27 degrees Saturday, according to the weather service, which forecasts a 60 percent chance of snow Friday night, when wind chill values will be as low as minus-10 degrees.
Despite Saturday’s warmer temperatures, wind chill values could still be as low as minus-5 degrees and snow is likely, the weather service said.