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Metra plans on normal schedule for evening rush; CPS classes to resume Wednesday

Updated: February 8, 2014 6:17AM



After a bumpy 1½ days, Metra was expecting to run a normal schedule on 11 of its 12 lines during Tuesday’s evening rush. But the schedule came with a big asterisk.

“We are not saying there won’t be delays,’’ said Metra spokesman Michael Gillis. “You can probably still expect delays. But we will be using our regular weekday schedules.’’

Only the BNSF planned to cancel four evening rush-hour outbound Metra trains. They were among of a total 26 trains carrying Metra passengers that were scrapped Tuesday.

After at least 40 train cancellations during Monday’s evening rush alone, an improved Tuesday evening rush was expected due less powdery snow that had been freezing and mucking up switches.

Another plus, Gillis said, was the return of some train crews that, under federal rules, had to be given a set number of hours off after working more than 12 hours.

Temperatures Tuesday dropped to an overnight low of minus 11 — with wind chills hitting minus 33. The mercury will slowly rise this week. Wednesday’s high is expected in the upper teens. Thursday’s high is expected in the mid-20s, and the high Friday will be in the mid-30s.

After two days off, Chicago Public Schools will be back in session Wednesday, a spokeswoman said. She had no other details.

The low temperature Tuesday is again expected to be minus 16 in the morning, with temperatures warming to a high from 2 to 6 degrees in the afternoon, according to National Weather Service Meteorologist Richard Castro. Snow depth at O’Hare is 11 inches, he added.

“It is the right decision to do for the welfare of our children,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said of the decision to close schools on a second day.

Some 1,000 O’Hare flights were canceled Tuesday. Midway airlines canceled 180 flights and reported delays of up to 35 minutes.

CTA ran all its trains during the Tuesday morning rush hour, with “mostly minor” delays averaging 5-10 minutes impacting the Red and Blue lines, said CTA spokesman Brian Steele. The delays were “comparable” to Monday’s, except shorter, he said. Northbound Red Line trains began bypassing the Chicago/State station about 4 a.m. after a busted water pipe created an icy mess on the mezzanine.

Brown Line trains got backed up at the start of the morning rush when a set of doors on one car failed to open, due to the cold, Steele said.

Blue Line rider Brian Devereux shared his winning combination for warmth as he stood on the Blue Line platform at Addison. “Big winter jacket, two pairs of pants, three socks, girlfriend’s boots.”

A south suburban man is Cook County’s first cold-related death of 2014, and at least the eighth of the winter season.

Elias Contreras, 80, died at MetroSouth Medical Center in Blue Island at 9:15 p.m. Monday, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office.

An autopsy Tuesday found Contreras, who lived in the 200 block of Olive Street in Blue Island, died of hypothermia, cold exposure, diabetes and heart disease, according to the medical examiner’s office.

Blue Island police were not immediately available for comment Tuesday afternoon.

Seven other deaths in Cook County have been caused at least partly by cold weather, though Contreras is the first since the record-breaking cold snap descended on the Chicago area Monday.

Area hospitals saw few cases of frostbite or hypothermia. More common were injuries related to car accidents and falls from slippery streets.

Gov. Pat Quinn issued a statewide disaster declaration Monday, which allowed him to activate the Illinois National Guard to assist state and local emergency responders with a heavy volume of calls.

About 1,050 homeless people spent Sunday night at the Pacific Garden Mission, the city’s largest homeless shelter. “There are only 999 beds, so we set up mats on the ground,” said Phil Kwiatkowski, president of the mission. “I expect many of them will stay a few nights.”

City officials reiterated this piece of advice: If you can, stay inside.

Many people heeded the advice. And many of those people ordered pizzas.

“Folks have been very receptive to us,” said Tony Medina, a delivery man with Father and Son pizzeria in Logan Square. “They like the fact that we’re coming out and going out of our way and what we’re going through to get to their house, and so they’re extra generous and very nice to us.”

Chicagoans documented the extreme conditions on Twitter. One point of fascination was the frozen Chicago River, which the Chicago Fire Department quickly warned is not thick enough to walk or skate on.

“Portions of the river are ice-covered ... [But] the river is always in motion. The movement is hard to freeze,” said Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford, who noted ice-cutting equipment — if needed — is available to make a path for rescue boats.

Numerous videos of Chicagoans throwing boiling water in the air and watching it crystallize were posted to the Internet. Others suggested blowing soap bubbles and watching them freeze. One person on Twitter timed how long it took his dog’s poop to freeze: less than 30 seconds.

With the risk of pipes freezing, plumbers were met with smiles at front doors across the city.

“Today we’ve probably had about a dozen calls we couldn’t go to, just because we don’t have the manpower,” said plumber Tom McHugh, of Rob West Plumbing in Humboldt Park. “The calls we’re getting have mainly been for frozen pipes. ... Most of our calls today were from customers who were calling as many plumbing companies as they could, hoping one would come out.”

For those who choose to venture out Tuesday into slightly warmer weather, the Adler Planetarium plans to reopen, as well the Brookfield Zoo — both of which were closed on Monday. The Museum of Science and Industry will stay closed Tuesday, and Lincoln Park Zoo will continue abbreviated hours. The Field Museum will be open, as it was Monday.

Cook County Circuit Courts will remain open Tuesday.

The year-round Diversey Driving range, where golfers hit balls under heated and nearly enclosed conditions, was closed Monday as well. It probably will be closed Tuesday, too.

Contributing: Hannah Lutz, Mitch Armentrout and Becky Schlikerman



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