Weather Updates

Warmer Saturday — but more snow, minus 20 degrees on the way

Pedestrians fight blustery winter weather near UniStatiFriday January 3 2014. | Chandler West/For Sun-Times Media

Pedestrians fight the blustery winter weather near Union Station on Friday, January 3, 2014. | Chandler West/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 4, 2014 3:34PM

Winter will loosen it’s icy grip a bit Saturday as temperatures rise to the low 30s. But the reprieve will be brief.

After some freeing drizzle, six to 10 inches of snow is expected to fall between Saturday afternoon and Sunday evening in Chicago, western and northern suburbs, according to the National Weather Service. The weather service’s storm warning will stay in effect until midnight Monday.

By Sunday night, the area will plunge into a deep freeze, with the mercury dropping to minus 15 to 20 degrees.

“Sunday night the bottom falls out,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Eric Lenning. He added that wind gusts of up to 25 mph could push wind chills to minus 45 on Sunday night. There will also be a wind chill advisory that will begin at midnight Monday and will end Tuesday evening.

The city announced Saturday that its warming centers will be open for three additional hours -- from 9 p.m. to 8 p.m. -- on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, according to the Department of Family and Support Services. Those who need them can call 311 for locations.

As of Saturday morning, 180 flights were canceled at O’Hare Airport and roughly a dozen flights were canceled at Midway, city Aviation officials said.

A day before on Friday, bad weather wreaked havoc at Midway Airport as thousands of passengers waited in lines for hours after Southwest Airlines canceled all flights through noon as a result of disruptions caused by snow on Thursday. Those disruptions left hundreds of Southwest passengers stranded on the airport tarmac for more than three hours Thursday night.

Southwest said more than 130 of its 220 daily scheduled flights at Midway Friday wound up cancelled and that problems were likely to continue through Saturday. “It’s taking a lot of time to recover our operations and get flights back on schedule,” said spokesman Dan Landson.

He added that the arctic weather barreling down from Canada may slow the airline’s recovery here.

Some stranded passengers said they were being told flights would not be available until early next week.

Chicago’s all-time record low of minus 27 degrees, set in 1985, will likely stand through the coming cold snap. But sub-zero temperatures will persist for 48 hours or more from Sunday through Tuesday night, according to forecasts.

Authorities advised people to stay inside if possible and check on the elderly relatives and friends.

“When it’s that cold it’s really dangerous to be outside, any exposed part of the body can get frostbite in minutes,” said Dr. Jeffrey Mjaanes, primary care physician at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush. For those who must go outdoors, Mjannes recommended they dress in layers, use chemical hand and toe warmers, and wear hats and scarves or face masks.

“Cold air is a known trigger for a lot of people with asthma,” he said. Breathing through a scarf or mask can prevent that problem.

Meanwhile for those trapped on the tarmac overnight Thursday, the airline is now contacting all the affected passengers “to offer compensation for the time they spent on the tarmac,” Landson said.

The U.S. Department of Transportation mandates passengers aboard domestic flights cannot be held for more than three hours on the tarmac without being allowed to get off the aircraft. Southwest could face a fine up to $27,000 per passenger, but fines usually wind up being lower.

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