Area schools, others gear up for subzero highs
By Suzanne Baker firstname.lastname@example.org January 4, 2014 7:56PM
Metra commuters wait in Naperville Thursday morning. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times
Kane County warming centers
The following Kane County communities have identified locations where the public can go to get warm during this period of extreme cold, according to the county Office of Emergency Management:
Aurora — Salvation Army, 437 E. Galena Blvd., Monday-Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Prisco Community Center, 150 W. Illinois Ave; Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Saturday 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Aurora Public Library — Main Branch, 1 E. Benton St.; Eola Road Branch, 555 S. Eola Road, and West Branch; 233 S. Constitution Drive, Monday to Thursday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 1 to 5 p.m.
Batavia — City Hall, 100 N. Island (check in at police desk).
Carpentersville — Fire Station 3, 5000 Sleepy Hollow Road.
Elgin — Law Enforcement Facility, 151 Douglas Ave.
Geneva — City Hall, 22 S. First St. Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Public Works, 1800 South St., Monday-Friday 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Fire Department; 200 East Side Drive, 24/7; Police Department, 20 Police Plaza, 24/7.
Hampshire — Fire Station, 202 Washington St., 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Maple Park — Fire Station, 305 S. County Line Road, Monday-Friday 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
North Aurora — Village Hall, 25 E. State St., 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Police Department, 200 S. Lincolnway, 4 to 10 p.m..
Pingree Grove — Police Department, One Police Plaza, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
St. Charles — City Hall, 2 E. Main St. 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Lazarus House, 214 Walnut St. (picture ID required).
South Elgin — Village Hall (call police non-emergency number at 630-232-8400).
Sugar Grove — Fire Station, 25 S. Municipal Drive, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
West Dundee — Public Safety Center 2, 100 Carrington Drive, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Updated: January 6, 2014 11:55AM
Kids, and perhaps a few parents, might be hoping winter break will be extended an extra day so they don’t have to brave the sub-zero temperatures Monday morning on their way to school.
The National Weather Service is projecting high temperatures in western suburbs to not exceed 14 below zero during the daytime Monday with nighttime temperatures plunging to minus 18.
School officials urge students, parents and staff to be aware of their district’s emergency closing procedures, whether it is a phone call, text message or visiting the district website.
Emergency closing information for area schools and colleges also can be found at emergencyclosingcenter.com.
Decision to close
Many school districts are making the decision to close on Monday. As of Sunday afternoon, Indian Prairie School District 204, Naperville School District 203 and School District 300, I alerted families that Monday would be a day off school.
For those who must attend school on Monday, students who walk to school or must wait outdoors for a bus should dress appropriately.
Frostbite can occur on exposed skin in just 10 minutes at a temperature of minus 15 with a 20 mph wind.
The same applies to adults who must be outside for more than a few minutes at a time, even if it is just walking from a parking lot to a job.
Students in Elgin School District U46 don’t have to worry about school on Monday; they already have the day off for an Institute Day. It is a full day, however, for faculty.
Local school districts are clearing snow from driveways and sidewalks, watching school buildings’ water pipes, furnaces and boilers and monitoring the low temperatures, which can impair bus function and make it dangerous for children to walk to school.
West Aurora spokesman Mike Chapin said the district is aware of the predicted weather conditions and officials are watching a combination of the temperature and wind chill factor.
“About half our kids walk to school, so we’ll be interested in the wind chill and what that may be,” Chapin said. “If the buses can’t work, that’s a deal breaker.”
He said the district hoped to make a call by Sunday if school will be canceled Monday.
“We try to make the call not real late,” Chapin said.
Parents and school staff will receive a phone call and email if school is canceled, as well as a text message, if they are signed up for alerts. Emergency closing information also will be posted online at sd129.org.
At East Aurora, Superintendent Jerome Roberts will be consulting with Marty Feltes, the district’s director of buildings and grounds, and other administrators as he makes the call about whether or not to close schools.
Roberts will take into consideration the temperature, snowfall and wind chill and the ability of students to make it to and from school safely. General education students are not bused in East Aurora and many walk to school.
If East Aurora schools are closed, an announcement will be made by 6 a.m. Monday. Parents will receive a phone message in English and Spanish and the information will be posted on the district’s website, d131.org, and Facebook and Twitter pages.
“We try to tell parents as early as possible,” said district spokesman Matt Hanley. “We’re already looking in this particular case to let people know by Sunday.”
Students in Oswego schools aren’t due back in school on Monday, due to a Teacher Institute Day, but if the cold weather snowballs into Tuesday, administrators will be prepared.
To assess if roads throughout the district are safe, Oswego administrators will travel the streets themselves, as well as consult with law enforcement agencies, county highway departments and local municipalities.
District administrators will monitor the weather reports and talk with administrators in nearby districts.
The district will make a decision if there is a closure on Tuesday by 6 a.m. and parents will receive a phone call and email. School closing information also will be posted on the district’s website, oswego308.org.
With students returning Tuesday to Judson University in Elgin, Judson spokeswoman Mary Dulabaum said university officials will be watching the weather carefully, but are more likely to cancel classes because of snow than because of cold.
Students new to Judson will arrive for orientation on Monday but classes won’t resume until Tuesday.
Dulabaum said she can’t remember classes being canceled solely because of cold, but snow can make it hazardous or impossible for faculty members and commuter students to drive to the campus.
“We just sent out a reminder to everyone about our emergency procedures,” she said. “Everyone should watch the Emergency Closing Center website at emergencyclosingcenter.com, which is the site most schools in our area use.”
She said any decision to cancel Judson classes is made by Provost and Chief Academic Officer Will Friesen (cq) in consultation with the university’s plant operations department. But if teachers and other employees think travel is too risky from wherever they live, they are encouraged to play it safe and stay home.
Most traditional Judson students live in campus housing and walk to class. The university also has a large number of adult students who live off campus, some of whom attend classes in Rockford.
At Elgin Community College, classes won’t resume until Jan. 13. But in general during winter weather, Executive Director of Communications Jeff Julian said, “we have an administrative procedure that helps us determine whether we remain open or closed. It includes reviewing the weather conditions, local road conditions, and the classes and activities scheduled for the day and/or evening. In the case of snow or ice, we also review the status of campus roads and parking lots.”
During such extreme cold conditions, ECC’s operations and maintenance officials said they will heat buildings around the clock instead of shutting down or cutting back the heating system at night to save energy. They also will keep fuel tanks full, keep essential equipment inside and use a form of ice melt that works at lower temperatures instead of the one used during a regular snow event.
Bouts of extreme cold can affect municipal infrastructures.
“The biggest problem for us under the cold is the fact that cold water expands and we always get lots more water main breaks in the winter,” Elgin Water Director Kyla Jacobsen said. “The colder the temps, the more main breaks. And it’s a bear for the employees who have to brave the conditions being out there in the hole fixing the break.”
“For plant operations, it is a matter of making sure that everything stays flowing and nothing freezes solid,” Jacobsen said. “It’s very hard — impossible — to get it moving once it freezes. Typically, this is the time of year when people use less water — as there is no outside use — and therefore the overhead water tanks are slow to turn over, so we have to be more vigilant at operations to make the water in the tanks move.”
Frigid temperatures can lead to home fires if people aren’t careful. The Kane County Office of Emergency Management offers several tips for staying safe and warm.
People who use a space heater are urged to place it on a level, hard surface and keep anything flammable at least 3 feet away. Fireplaces should have a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.
Before the room or going to bed, space heaters should be turned off and fireplace embers should be extinguished.
To protect pipes from freezing, allow running water at a trickle and open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing.
Should a generator be necessary, never operate a generator inside the home, including in the basement or garage.
Also, don’t hook a generator up to the home’s wiring. The safest thing to do is to connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator.
Cats and dogs should be kept inside during cold weather, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Like people, cats and dogs are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia and should be kept inside. Longer-haired and thick-coated dog breeds, such as huskies and other dogs bred for colder climates, are more tolerant of cold weather; but no pet should be left outside for long periods of time in below-freezing weather.
Water and food bowls should be kept in a place where they will not freeze.
Keep an eye out for animal stowaways, particularly if a vehicle is left outdoors. A warm vehicle engine can be an appealing heat source for outdoor and feral cats, but it’s deadly. Check underneath the car, bang on the hood, and honk the horn before starting the engine to encourage feline hitchhikers to abandon their roost under the hood.
People also should avoid traveling with pets in extreme cold.
A car can rapidly cool down in cold weather; it becomes like a refrigerator, and can rapidly chill your pet. Pets that are young, old, ill, or thin are particularly susceptible to cold environments and should never be left in cold cars. Limit car travel to only that which is necessary, and don’t leave pets unattended in the vehicle.
With staff reports.