CHICAGO: Parents brought kids to work or just stayed home because schools were closed, again. Office workers hailed cabs to ride a block — or less. And companies offering delivery services were inundated with business as arctic air blasted the central U.S. on Monday for the second time in weeks, disrupting the lives of even the hardiest Midwesterners.
As temperatures and wind chills plummeted throughout the day, even simple routines were upended by the need to bundle up, with anyone venturing outdoors being well advised to layer up with clothing, coats, hats, scarves and gloves.
And there’s no quick relief in sight as subzero highs were expected to dominate across the region into today.
“This is similar to what we had three weeks ago” in terms of life-threatening conditions, said Sarah Marquardt, a National Weather Service meteorologist. “With wind chills in the minus 30 to minus 40 range, you can get frostbite within 10 minutes on exposed skin.”
In Chicago, temperatures had fallen below zero by Monday afternoon with wind chills in the negative double-digits.
“We had two [employees] call in because they couldn’t come to work because of the school closings, and another called in sick,” said Kristelle Brister, the manager of a Chicago Starbucks, who was forced to bring her 9-year-old son to work after the city shut down its 400,000-student school system for the day.
Residents of Minnesota and Wisconsin faced similar, if even somewhat more severe weather.
Wind chills in the minus 40s were expected in Minneapolis, while in Milwaukee the chill hit minus 23 by mid-afternoon. Elsewhere, wind chills of minus 18 were expected in Dayton, Ohio, and minus 14 in Kansas City, Mo.
The chill Monday brought a spike in business for GrubHub, a company that lets users order food online from restaurants and have the food delivered.
Not only that, but people seem to appreciate the drivers more, with company spokeswoman Allie Mack saying that during the polar vortex earlier this month, tipping was up by double digits in Detroit, Cleveland, Minneapolis and Chicago.
“You figure people are probably being more generous to their drivers because their drivers are the ones braving the conditions while you’re on your couch in your pajamas,” Mack said.
The weather also sent runners inside to health clubs or into stores to buy treadmills.
“Treadmills and ellipticals are the No. 1 seller now that conditions are terrible,” said Dave O’Malley, manager of Chicago Home Fitness.