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Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Stefano Esposito

Chicago tries to keep warm as temperatures, wind chills plunge

The Chicago area remained under a winter weather warning Friday, with high winds kicking up snow and driving down temperatures. (Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times file)

Earl Warren clenched a cigarette between trembling fingers and took pleasure where he could find it Friday morning.

“At least the sun is starting to come out,” the 53-year-old said, standing on the sidewalk outside the Garfield Community Service Center in East Garfield Park.

U.S. and city of Chicago flags snapped in the wind outside the center. Snow eddied on the sidewalk.

The Chicago area remained under a winter weather warning, with high winds kicking up snow and driving down temperatures. The official reading at O’Hare at 11:30 a.m. was minus 4, up from minus 8 hours earlier. Wind chills as low as minus 40 were recorded.

There was a lot of coming and going Friday from the hulking facility, one of the city’s 24-hour warming centers. Firefighters shuffled in at one point with a gurney to wheel out a man complaining of frostbite.

About two dozen people sat in a large room beneath fluorescent strip lighting, some dozing, others staring at a tiny tube TV in a corner of the room. 

A woman wearing a full-length fur coat stood outside, too. The hem of her jeans was torn, her shoelaces untied. She said she was waiting for the nearby Dollar Store to open.

“I just finished with Harvard and Yale,” she said. “I’m an attorney.”

Meanwhile, Warren, who is homeless, was considering where he would sleep Friday night. He’s originally from Philadelphia but has been living in Chicago for four or five months, he said. He said he has family “but no ties.”

He’d been staying at a nearby shelter, he said, but he got fed up with it.

“It’s like sardines in there. I was trying to get some space. I’m a space guy,” he said, taking a drag on his cigarette.

Several Chicago-area furnace repair companies reported being very busy Friday, including Guardian Heating and Cooling in the Old Irving Park neighborhood.

Andrea Lange, Guardian’s office manager, said they were booked up for the day by 10 a.m. Friday. Many people were calling about having no heat.

“We have a lot of people who don’t know what to do,” she said.

Lange urged people to not turn off their furnaces at night when they’re sleeping because it can take up to 24 hours to get it back to a desirable daytime temperature.

And it’s a good idea to check whether the furnace filter needs replacing, she said.

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