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article image'Chiberia': Ghastly storm in the Midwest continues Special

By Sandy Dechert     Jan 6, 2014 in Environment
Chicago - Everybody in Chicago and environs can now say they've encountered polar weather. It's actually colder here than at the world's farthest extremes.
UPDATE: Monday ended with grim statistics--four dead in Chicago from shoveling snow, most stores and offices either skeleton-crewed or closed, one of every 10 flights in the U.S. grounded, stranded trains, and even delays on Greyhound. Tuesday looks hardly different, a bit worse from my apartment, at 57 degrees F. with no hot water. Can't complain. The homeless shelters are full. Outside it's eight below. The schools are closed again.
From Monday afternoon: So far, the day feels like controlled havoc. Havoc, because nearly everything in the outdoors, and sometimes inside, doesn't work right. Controlled, because of our bright and cheery sun and pretty snow. Serenity's the byword. We can't change much about the situation.
The Sun-Times says to forget about most flights through Midway and O'Hare. Hundreds if not thousands have been canceled, both inbound and out. My facebook page is flooded with stories of stranded friends. (Too bad for the Bermans, who're stuck in St. John's, V.I.)
Tom Skilling, our friendly weather genius at WGN News, headlines it this way: "'Siberian Express' blasts Chicago in wake of heavy snows." Before the bitterest cold hit, Tom remarked:
"23" of snow has fallen in Chicago over 81 hours in just the past week. The storm Saturday and Sunday lasted 31 hours…. And powerful winds are to continue blowing here through Monday night into Tuesday producing more blowing and drifting snow --most acute in open areas--and rendering travel conditions extremely challenging."
Winter storm stats from Tom Skilling s group at WGN News.
Winter storm stats from Tom Skilling's group at WGN News.
P. Dailey, T. Valle / WGN-TV
He even has words for the National Weather Service:
"I'm also posting accumulation projections from this point forward from our in-house RPM model and from the Weather Service's 4km WRF. Note that the WRF map… assumes a 10 to 1 ratio--which will end up too low. As temps drop, the average snow/water ratio is likely to be more on the order of 14 or 15 to 1, which means the totals on the map are likely to end up heavier by a factor of as much as one and a half times."
About half an hour ago Illinois Governor Pat Quinn declared a state of disaster. Chicago public schools are closed, and the district has just announced another closure for Tuesday. Officials are urging residents to stay indoors if they can.
So's my friend Bart Shore, traffic reporter at WBBM Radio. He arrived at work on time, by 5:00. The first thing he did after his initial road report was implore everybody to stay home and post real-time photos of the interstates on his facebook page. They show either no traffic at all or horrendous bumper-to-bumper conditions due to storm-related pileups. As you can imagine, local public transit, where available, is also experiencing considerable delays.
Mary Schmich, Chicago's Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist from the Tribune, posted (before it got colder), "Fifteen below? Record cold? Time for the Chicago winter mantra: At least the sun is out."
For anyone who'd like to see more horror pix of the storm, the Huffington Post has an excellent gallery of 46 numbing photographs.
"The incoming cold blast is mammoth in scope; wind chill advisories are out for 40 states from Montana to Georgia," Tom says. Oh, and for my bffs on the Atlantic seaboard--you won't get away without this. Forecasters say the life-threatening cold is heading east.
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