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Extreme Cold Grips Chicago: City Prepares for Frigid Temps

By  Alex Parker  and Erica Demarest | January 5, 2014 9:17am | Updated on January 5, 2014 2:33pm

 City officials say they're prepared for the massive snowstorm bearing down on the city.
City officials say they're prepared for the massive snowstorm bearing down on the city.
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Flickr/gregorywass

WEST LOOP — Traffic in the skies might be as sparse as traffic on the streets Sunday, as more than 1,200 flights were canceled at O'Hare International Airport after Chicago was hit with a large winter storm.

At least 9 inches has fallen at O'Hare, nearly 7 at Midway Airport, and that's just the beginning. An additional 1 to 3 inches is expected throughout the day, according to AccuWeather meteorologist Jennifer Correa.

Correa said an "arctic blast" will create "biting winds, as temperatures drop down to 18 below zero tonight."

With windchills expected to hit as low at -50 degrees, the city deployed its full fleet of more than 280 snow plows and salt spreaders, said Charles Williams, commissioner of Streets and Sanitation.

 City officials say they're prepared for the snow storm bearing down on Chicago.
City officials say they're prepared for the snow storm bearing down on Chicago.
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DNAinfo/Erica Demarest

The city will focus its efforts on larger roads such as Lake Shore Drive and Ashland and Western avenues. Smaller residential streets will only be plowed once it stops snowing, Williams said.

Williams encouraged drivers to avoid the popular "dibs" practice of placing lawn chairs in shoveled-out parking spaces. This "clog[s] the street with junk" and blocks plows, he said.

Chicago Public Schools will be closed Monday, the district announced, reversing an earlier decision.

DePaul University, Roosevelt University, Northwestern University and the University of Chicago announced Monday classes were canceled.

The city's aviation department said Sunday that the few flights operating out of O'Hare were averaging 25-minute delays. At Midway, more than 60 flights were "proactively" canceled, and existing flights were running "mostly on time."

Six community service centers and six regional senior centers will act as "warming centers" starting Sunday, city officials said. Extended hours will keep the centers open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Tuesday.

One center — the Garfield Center, located at 10 S. Kedzie Ave. — will operate 24 hours.

Felicia Davis, Chicago's buildings commissioner, reminded renters that landlords are required to keep apartments at a minimum of 68 degrees between 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 p.m., and 66 degrees the rest of the time.

Landlords who fail to comply could be hit with stiff fines and legal action from the city. Residents with heating issues should call 311, Davis said.

As more than a dozen city commissioners and officials gathered Sunday for a news conference at the Office of Emergency Management and Communications headquarters, 1411 W. Madison St., one person was notably absent — Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

OEMC chief Gary Schenkel said the mayor was out of town, but offered no further details. Schenkel insisted the mayor has been working with each city agency.