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Metrcommuters emerge from UniStatiMadisStreet Tuesday morning.  |  Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Metra commuters emerge from Union Station on Madison Street on Tuesday morning. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

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Updated: February 9, 2014 6:35AM



It’s a possible trifecta.

Warmer temperatures (they’re coming). Kids back to school (they’re going). Smoother commutes (fingers crossed).

After a Metra mess Monday and early Tuesday that resulted in dozens of cancellations and massive delays, slightly warmer temperatures will hopefully translate to better service for the Wednesday morning rush.

“We are expecting a normal rush hour,” said Metra spokesman Meg Reile. “But there is still a chance we could have switching problems due to ice,” said Reile, who also noted that trains are required to run slower in subzero temperatures..

Negative 16 degree temperatures Monday and minus 12 early Tuesday left the rail agency scrambling to combat the cold and windblown snow as it wreaked havoc on equipment.

Temperatures during Wednesday’s morning rush will range from about zero to minus three under a mix of sun and clouds. By 10 a.m., temperatures should rise to about seven above zero. The mercury will top out at around 15 degrees about 3 p.m. before falling to nearly five degrees above zero for the evening commute, according to National Weather Service Meteorologist Mike Bardou.

Thursday’s high is expected to be in the mid-20s. And Friday’s projected high of 38 is expected to bring rain that will leave slush behind.

After two days off of school because of the extreme cold, Chicago Public Schools students are expected back in class Wednesday morning. But the extra play time was no freebie. Students will be required to make up the days later this year, CPS spokeswoman Keiana Barrett said.

Many CPS parents were happy to hear classes would resume.

“I’m thrilled. I can’t wait,” said Wendy Katten, whose son is a fifth grader at Burley Elementary in Lake View. “My son has had friends over, and they’ve been bouncing off the walls ... playing hide and seek and tag,” said Katten, director of the education advocacy group Raise Your Hand. “I mean winter break is over in my mind. The kids need to get out of the house and back to school.”

The CTA was expecting normal rail and bus service Wednesday.

The Cook County Jail will resume inmate visitation and the normal discharge of inmates, both of which were put on hold during the two-day deep freeze.

The frigid weather damaged the sprinkler system at Cook County’s George N. Leighton Criminal Court Building, sending a steady stream of water into the front lobby at 26th Street and California.

About an inch of water poured inside the courthouse just beyond the metal detectors near the main entrance after maintenance workers attempted to remove the frozen sprinkler system, said Kristen Mack, spokeswoman for Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle.

Workers noticed the frozen sprinkler around 4 p.m. and decided it would be best to repair it after courts closed about an hour later, Mack said.

“It will have no impact on court,” she said. “It will be business as usual.”

Tuesday was also marked by the announcement of the first cold-related death of 2014.

Hypothermia and cold exposure were contributing factors in the death of Elias Contreras, 80, of Blue Island, who died Monday night at a south suburban hospital, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

Four area men also died this weekend after suffering heart attacks while shoveling snow.

Contributing: Rosalind Rossi, Becky Schlikerman and George Slefo



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