CHICAGO — Illinois is about to get hit with a one-two punch of snow and then brutal — and dangerous — cold.
The National Weather Service says temperatures that dipped to 6 degrees on Saturday at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport will climb a bit — but just long enough to dump as much as 6-8 inches north of Chicago, 6 inches in the city and anywhere from 2-5 inches in central Illinois overnight Sunday night and early Monday.
A hardware store in Glenview has been buzzing all weekend with people stocking up. Even though they just got a shipment of winter weather supplies yesterday, they say they're starting to run low on several items — especially snowblowers. Over the past two days, the say they've sold more than 40.
"A normal weekend doesn’t have the line wrapped all the way around, but this weekend that’s been the case kind of the whole weekend," said George Vail, Asst Manager Weiss Ace Hardware.
Another item that’s flying off the shelves is ice melt, with bags and bags of salt products loaded into cars throughout the day. Many people are picking up products that are capable of melting ice in sub zero conditions, as regular rock salt does not work in temperatures below zero
NWS meteorologist Ed Shimon says northern and central Illinois will see record-breaking low temperatures of 18 or 19 degrees below zero or colder on Tuesday and Wednesday. Wind chills of 40 and 50 degrees below zero are expected — cold enough, says Shimon, to cost frostbite on skin exposed as little as 10 minutes.
Cold weather is 20 times as deadly as hot weather, according to one study in the British Journal, because low temperatures cause more problems for the body’s cardiovascular and respiratory system.
Keeping that in mind, first responders are preparing ahead of the snow and cold. At the Elgin Fire Department District 6 station, calls already come in constantly, and only pick up as the weather takes a turn.
"We do get our share of CO alarms, occasionally the exhaust vents for furnaces and things will get blocked and that will cause us CO problems in homes, and then a lot of fall injuries, and cardiac from people out shoveling snow," said Lt. Dick Cummings, Elgin Fire Department.
Fighting fire also becomes more difficult in snow and icy conditions.
"Like everybody else, it’s going to be a challenge for us too. Because anytime we’re using water it’s going to turn to ice really fast, even in our hose lines, if we’re not using them, they’ll freeze up in a hurry," Cummings said.
Even when the temperature drops, there’s not much fire fighters can wear to keep themselves warm when they’re out fighting fires. Medics check blood pressure, and make sure frostbite hasn't set in.
"One of the challenges with our gear is if you wear more stuff underneath, it limits your movement so you can’t really work as effectively," Elgin Fire Deptartment Capt Michael Oine said. "So we’re really not wearing a whole lot more than we usually wear."
So just like everyone else, firefighters are bracing for an influx of calls, and cold.
"We do the best job we can with what we’re given and dealing with the temperatures, especially these next couple days are going to be pretty extreme," Oine said