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Emily Wasserman and Kaitlyn Zufall/ MEDILL

Chicagoans battle subzero temperatures

by Emily Wasserman and Kaitlyn Zufall
Jan 22, 2013

Cold Weather Chart

Emily Wasserman/MEDILL

Temperatures dropped below zero on Tuesday, but are expected to rise throughout the rest of the week, according to the National Weather Service.

Get out your hat, gloves and scarf. Tuesday’s weather forecast isn’t for the faint of heart.

For the first time this winter, temperatures in Chicago dropped below zero.

“We just had a very cold arctic air mass that moved in and clear skies at night, so we had a lot of cooling,” said Amy Seeley, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Chicago.

The combination of cooling and prolonged, gusty winds brought temperatures to a low of -1 degree Farenheit. Temperatures have not dropped below 0 degrees Farenheit since Feb. 10, 2011, Seeley said. The recorded low was -9 degrees.

To battle the cold weather, Chicagoans are bundling up or trying to stay indoors. Those who must brave the arctic air and subzero temperatures should plan ahead, said Melaney Arnold, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health.

“Try to reduce the amount of exposed skin you have. Wear a hat, coat, scarf and mittens,” said Arnold. “Dress in layers, because air gets trapped in those layers so it’s a better insulator.”

As he walked through Federal Plaza in downtown Chicago, Jamie Hogue, 33, of Carpentersville, echoed Arnold’s advice that being prepared is the best way to brave the cold temperatures.

“I’ve got my long underwear on, got my scarf, got my gloves got my hat. You just have to be prepared for it,” Hogue said.

Arnold also recommended taking action quickly to warm up after being exposed to the cold.

“Wrap yourself and your hands in blankets to warm them gradually,” Arnold said. “If you’re out someplace, put your hands under your armpits to reheat them.”

She added that residents should avoid taking hot baths and showers after exposure to the cold, as a person with hypothermia could go into shock.

Contrary to popular belief, rubbing your hands and feet together is one of the worst things to do to counteract prolonged exposure to the cold.

“Don’t rub frostbitten areas,” Arnold said. “Rubbing your hands and feet together to produce heat can damage tissue.”

Like most Chicago area residents, Hogue tries to limit his time outdoors when the temperature drops below zero.

“I typically don’t come downtown on days when it’s this cold, but sometimes you need to,” Hogue said. “It’s frigid, brutal, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”

Temperatures for the rest of the week are expected to be slightly higher, with a weekday low of 14 degrees on Wednesday night and a high of 26 degrees on Friday. However, the National Weather Service in Chicago also predicts a chance of snow through Saturday.