News Release
City Services

January 5, 2014

City Of Chicago Provides Update On SnowStorm Efforts And Preparations To Help Keep Residents Safe As Extremely Frigid Temperatures Arrive

Coordinated Citywide Response by Departments and Agencies Aim to Keep Residents – Especially Those Most Vulnerable – Safe and Warm During Extreme Cold Temperatures

OEMC Media Affairs    312.746.9454

Molly Poppe | Dept. Streets and Sanitation or 312.339.5524

City of Chicago officials today provided an update on snow plowing efforts and details on the City’s preparation for the extremely cold temperatures expected to arrive in Chicago Sunday evening. A coordinated citywide response will be focused on keeping residents – especially those most vulnerable – safe and warm during the extreme cold temperatures.

“Even as the City is actively plowing snow and spreading salt, we are looking ahead as temperatures are expected to drop dangerously low over the next few days,” said Gary Schenkel, Executive Director of the Office of Emergency Management and Communications. “We continue to remind residents to take precautions, but also check on the well-being of friends, relatives and neighbors.”

Multiple departments and agencies are working to provide a constant assessment of the situation across the city, and officials are reminding residents to call 311 for assistance. The Department of Streets and Sanitation monitored conditions Saturday afternoon in advance of the storm, and then deployed its full fleet of more than 280 vehicles to remove snow and spread salt, to ensure streets are passable and safe for motorists and emergency vehicles.

"Our drivers have been working very hard to keep Chicago moving during this snow system, and motorists have been doing their part by driving safely and allowing our plows to complete their tasks," said Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Charles L. Williams. “We will continue to monitor conditions through our system of 1,500 cameras and roadway censors at Snow Command throughout this weather system."

With more snow on the way, the first priority remains the arterial streets, and the condition of Chicago’s side streets may vary block-by-block with the volume of snow and high winds that occurred with the recent weather system. Vehicles will be deployed to side and residential streets once main routes are clear and the snow has stopped. (Add here the # of vehicles we have/will have on street Sunday and Monday, including 25 4x4’s, quick hitches if we do, and ward trucks with plows to do cps bus lanes on Monday).

Family and Support Services
From Sunday until Tuesday, the Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS) is extending the hours at its six community service centers and six senior centers, which will be open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. to provide a refuge from the cold. The Garfield Community Service Center at 10 South Kedzie is always open 24 hours and can connect residents in need of shelter.

The department has also established a coordinated effort and made arrangements with its shelter partners to increase outreach efforts to assist residents in need such as homeless, seniors and have those facilities operate continuously, around the clock, from Sunday through Tuesday. DFSS and shelter partners will add one outreach team –two per shift – increasing capacity for shelter placement and well-being checks. Additional staff will be directed to conduct street outreach checking on homeless. Shelter partners are also prepared to add more
than 100 shelter beds as needed.

“Due to the extremely low temperatures, our Department and our network of nonprofit agencies have expanded our outreach services to assist residents in need, including homeless persons and seniors,” said Evelyn Diaz, Commissioner of the Department of Family and Support Services. “If you are seeking a warm place, you can call 311 and we will provide assistance.”

Even as it has extended the hours at its service centers, DFSS has also been advising many of its regular clients, especially seniors, to take advantage of the brief break in the weather Friday and Saturday to refill prescriptions and secure enough supplies so that they could safely stay inside during the coldest and most dangerous portion of the cold snap.

DFSS also sent alerts to all of its 300+ delegate agencies, and to aldermanic ward offices,notifying them of the department’s emergency weather plans and sharing cold weather preparedness tips.

Anyone who needs to locate a warming center or secure shelter should contact 311 directly. If they are unable to get to a warming center or shelter on their own, 311 can make transportation arrangements for them. 311 can also be used to request well-being checks for at risk residents or to request any other necessary City service. In addition, Chicago Public Library branches also serve as warming centers and will be open during normal hours, which vary by branch.

Chicago Public Schools
The school year resumes for Chicago Public Schools (CPS) on Monday, January 6, and CPS prepared a comprehensive winter weather plan to ensure students and school personnel have a warm, comfortable and safe learning environment.

“While all District schools are slated to be open on Monday, I strongly encourage parents to use their own discretion in deciding whether to send their child to school,” said CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett. “We will be working throughout the weekend to ensure that our buildings and school officials are ready to receive students on Monday.”

The winter weather plans started being communicated to CPS parents and guardians through phone calls on Friday, and have been continuing throughout the weekend, along with updates on the CPS website and additional information on a winter weather hotline (773) 553-3100.

Highlights of CPS’ plan include:

  • Building engineers will turn boilers up to standard classroom temperatures starting on Sunday. In case of a malfunction, the District, in coordination with the principal and network chief, will make plans to transport students to an alternate site. 
  • Students will remain in the building until picked up if they are being picked up. Recess will be indoors. 
  • The District is working with bus vendors to ensure that all vehicles are operating properly Monday morning, arrive as scheduled, and that wait times are minimized. 
  • Safe Passage workers will be on their usual routes to ensure that students arrive to school safely. 
  • Parents are encouraged to ensure students are properly dressed for the conditions and to drop off children at school at the regularly scheduled time. 
  • All athletic events will continue as regularly scheduled.

Fire Safety Tips

The Chicago Fire Department does not recommend that residents use space heaters, but acknowledges that people may rely on them during cold winter months. To minimize the dangers of space heaters, the Fire Department recommends only using heaters that are UL certified as safe and never use an extension cord with a space heater, which can cause the cord to overheat and burn. Most importantly, never allow a space heater within three feet of anything that can burn, especially bedding.

“Sadly, we have found that fires have started because children have moved a space heater closer to the bed for more heat after parents have gone to bed for the night,” said Jose Santiago, Fire Commissioner. “Residents should also check and replace batteries in smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, especially this close to the holiday season. Batteries may have been borrowed for new electronics or toys.”

The City of Chicago experienced 16 deaths due to fire in 2013, the lowest annual total ever recorded. If working smoke detectors had been in place in every building, the number of deaths in 2013 may have been even lower.
"Of the 16 deaths, 12 occurred in buildings without working detectors,” said Commissioner Santiago. “Chicago requires landlords to make sure every residential unit has at least one detector for each floor with a bedroom and residents are required to maintain detectors with batteries as needed."

Fire officials also encouraged residents to check to ensure their carbon monoxide detectors are working properly. With furnaces running during normal cold weather, a small carbon monoxide leak might not be noticed, but with heaters running non-stop to match the extreme cold, that small leak could become a deadly source of fumes. Carbon Monoxide detectors are designed to alert you before you feel sick, so if yours goes off get to fresh air and call 911.

Department of Health

The Chicago Department of Public Health reminds residents to take extra precautions to stay warm and avoid hypothermia and frostbite. Residents should avoid unnecessary trips outside, and if it is necessary to go outside, wear several loose fitting layers of warm clothing. When shoveling snow, work slowly and take frequent breaks to avoid exhaustion. Be sure to winterize your home and vehicles, and keep cell phones charged with extra batteries for emergencies.

Airports Update

As of 7:30 a.m., airlines at O’Hare proactively canceled nearly 1,200 flights and were experiencing some delays of 25 minutes due to de-icing issues. At Midway, most flight operations are on time and airlines have proactively canceled more than 60 flights. Travelers are encouraged to confirm the status of their flight with their airlines throughout prior to heading to airport.

CTA Update

During periods of extreme winter weather, the CTA takes numerous steps to prepare its buses and trains to transport customers as reliably and safely as possible. Those steps include taking ample time to warm buses and trains and ensuring heating equipment is working adequately, checking elevators at rail stations every 30 minutes to make sure they’re operating safely, and making sure rail switches are fully functioning by either turning on switch heaters or exercising switches during periods of no traffic (such as on lines with no service overnight) to keep them from freezing up.

Additionally, CTA trains have equipment that can de-ice and scrape ice from the “third” rail to make sure trains can receive full power. Additional crews at major rail terminals and key junctions allow the quick dispatch of personnel in the event an issue arises.

The CTA recommends customers allow extra travel time and, to minimize wait times, take advantage of CTA’s Bus and Train Tracker to prevent waiting outside in the bitter cold. Every rail station now has Train Tracker displays; in addition, Bus and Train Tracker can be easily accessed via mobile phones to know when the next bus or train is arriving.

Department of Buildings

During extreme weather, the Department of Buildings focuses its efforts on complaints from tenants regarding inadequate heat and reassigns inspectors to make sure these complaints are dealt with as quickly as possible.
If a tenant is without heat, they should first contact their landlord and then call 311 to report the issue. The Department of Buildings enforces the Chicago Heat Ordinance, which mandates that the temperature inside a rental residence is at least 68 degrees from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., and 66 degrees at night. Landlords face fines of up to $500 per day, per violation, for each day they do not supply adequate heat.

Department of Water Management

The Department of Water Management is adding overnight crews during the extreme cold to address any issues with fire hydrants or water leaks. To avoid frozen water pipes, residents can keep a trickle of water running and allow warm air to heated areas where pipes are exposed. Under no circumstances should residents use open
flames on frozen pipes, as this can create a fire hazard.


People with disabilities should consider the types of equipment and resources they may need should there be a power outage or if they become stranded in their homes for several days. They should have emergency plans for respirators or electrical-powered medical equipment and spare batteries for wheelchairs. It is also important to have several days worth of medications on hand, both prescription and non-prescription. If accessible transportation is needed, have a plan in place should you need to leave your premises. Also, make sure that you have several days of supplies for any service animals that you may have. Maintain contact with your network of family and friends. Finally, sign-up for the Voluntary Emergency Assistance Registry at to help first responders know what type of assistance you may need.


Due to the weather, Chicago’s bike-sharing program, Divvy, is expected to close this evening and will re-open after the extreme weather passes. No bikes can be rented after the temporary closure has begun, though any bikes in use at the time can be returned to any Divvy station with an available dock. Members will also be informed of closure and re-opening via email, and any questions about whether the system is open or closed can be answered with by a service representative at 1-855-55-DIVVY (553-4889).

As with its first closure late last week, the system will re-open once conditions are safe and stations are operational.

311/City Services

The City anticipates that call volume may increase with the frigid temperatures and residents are asked to be patient when calling 311, especially during peak call times during the day.

                                                                    # # #